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Here’s what you need to know about Howard County’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution

In the past five days, the Howard County Health Department has administered more than 2,600 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to county Health Officer Maura Rossman.

At a news conference Thursday, Rossman joined County Executive Calvin Ball and Howard County General Hospital interim President Shafeeq Ahmed to provide updates on the county’s COVID-19 vaccination effort.

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As of Thursday, the county health department has administered nearly 58% of its 4,500 received doses of the Moderna vaccine. Ball said that by Tuesday 100% of the department’s current allocation will be administered.

More doses are expected from the state by early next week, according to Ball.

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Howard County General Hospital has received both the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines and began administering them to front-line health care workers in mid-December. The hospital has not disclosed totals for how many doses it has received or how many it has administered.

Rossman said shipments of the vaccine to the health department are received weekly. The department is not told which vaccine it will receive or how much, and it is notified about vaccine deliveries a few days before they arrive.

“This makes planning challenging for the following weeks,” Rossman said.

Individuals who have received the vaccine so far are part of the Phase 1A group which includes licensed health care providers, first responders, nursing home residents and staff, and correctional health care staff and officers. According to the county, there are about 5,000 to 7,000 people who fall into this category.

Ball said the county is expecting to complete Phase 1A by the end of January.

The next phase, 1B, includes approximately 30,000 to 35,000 individuals in Howard and includes teachers, child care professionals, congregate living facilities and those older than 75. Ball estimates this phase will be completed by early March.

Phase 1C includes 35,000 to 40,000 people including those ages 65 to 74, as well as grocery, postal service and public transit employees. Ball said Thursday it’s too early to predict when this phase will be completed.

“I know folks want to know exactly when they can expect to receive the vaccine, but right now while they’re still ramping up production at the federal level, there is not a clear answer and we do not want to convey a false sense of hope,” Ball said.

As of Thursday, COVID-19 numbers in the county include a weekly positivity rate of 7.4% and a seven-day rolling new-case rate of 35.0 per 100,000 residents, according to Howard County Health Department data. The county is averaging about 15,000 COVID-19 tests per week.

“These metrics put us in a dangerous area of widespread community transmission,” Ball said.

Rossman said the health department is hiring and training additional volunteers for when Phase 1B begins; it plans to use Howard County Public School System nurses and the Maryland National Guard to assist at clinics.

Howard County has not yet requested the help of the Maryland National Guard, according to Rossman, because the current amount of vaccines don’t require the assistance. When vaccine levels increase, Rossman said the county will request it.

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Ball said that as vaccine production ramps up at the federal level, vaccines will trickle down to the state and local levels.

“Everyone who wants vaccine will be vaccinated; it will just take time,” Rossman said.

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