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Prince George’s launches variety of efforts to reach those not yet vaccinated

Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks speaks with the press after touring the vaccination site at the Greenbelt Metro station on April 7, 2021.
Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks speaks with the press after touring the vaccination site at the Greenbelt Metro station on April 7, 2021. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

Officials in the region are continuing to grapple with how to get more people vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, with those in Prince George’s County urging residents to take the shots and Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announcing a new campaign to improve vaccine uptake rates at nursing homes.

Residents in the hard-hit Washington suburb of Prince George’s spent months clamoring for the vaccine, waiting in long lines, dealing with technological glitches and watching as residents from other jurisdictions snagged appointments in the county.

But County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D) said there has been a shift in Prince George’s and across the region: With vaccinations now “easier than ever to get,” the challenge is reaching residents who have not yet gotten their shots.

“We are looking for you if you are unvaccinated,” Alsobrooks said at a news conference Tuesday. “We believe so strongly that this is the way forward for our community.”

As the District did this weekend, Prince George’s has launched a door-to-door canvassing program that will try to reach people in hard-hit neighborhoods inside the Capital Beltway, where vaccination rates are lowest. Canvassers will knock on more than 266,000 doors in a dozen communities that have been identified by the county’s equity task force as both hard-hit by the virus and having issues related to vaccine access, including poverty, Alsobrooks said.

For example, in the 20743 Zip code, which includes Capitol Heights and is one of the targeted communities, just 35 percent of residents have received at least one shot. Meanwhile, in the 20721 Zip code, which includes the much wealthier Bowie, 62 percent of residents have gotten at least one shot, according to county data.

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And like in D.C., which transitioned this month from using a preregistration system to hosting 11 walk-up clinics with no appointments required, residents in Prince George’s are no longer required to preregister at health department or state-run mass vaccination sites. The county is also working with a variety of community partners to host mobile clinics at sites including churches and community groups.

But Alsobrooks said that at a walk-up vaccination clinic hosted by the county Monday at Wayne K. Curry Sports and Learning Center in Landover, only 160 of the 500 available doses were used.

“We communicated on every platform we had, urging people to please come to the walk-up clinic,” she said. “What we learned is this: Demand has not kept pace as the covid-19 vaccine has become more widely available. . . . Boosting demand is a top priority for our county.”

Officials elsewhere have been trying to increase access to the vaccine. In Virginia, Arlington officials announced Tuesday that they would offer walk-up clinics to individuals 16 and up without appointments, while Loudoun County launched a free shuttle service between the bus stop at Dulles Town Center and the county’s vaccination site located at the other end of the shopping mall. The shuttle will operate from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day the vaccine site is open.

In addition to the in-person door-knocking in Prince George’s, there will also be phone and text banking encouraging county residents to get vaccinated, Alsobrooks said. Canvassers will make 1.3 million calls and send 500,000 texts.

Hogan on Tuesday announced that the state is expanding its outreach campaign and deploying more mobile vaccine units with a target of reaching employees and residents of nursing homes, who were prioritized in late December when vaccinations first became available. They were among the some of the groups who have shown hesitancy about getting a shot.

Hogan said he has signed an executive order that will require nursing homes to report their vaccination rates and the information on each facility will be available online.

Hogan, who on Monday announced a plan to offer $100 to any fully vaccinated state employee, encouraged nursing-home owners to provide an incentive to their employees.

Most nursing home workers don’t want the vaccine. Here’s what facilities are doing about it.

Hogan said the “disinformation campaign” about vaccination continues to be a challenge as the state tries to convince those who have taken a wait-and-see attitude or are opposed to getting immunized.

“Those who are not vaccinated will continue to be at risk of infection, hospitalization and death,” he said at a Baltimore County nursing home. “We’ve got to get everybody convinced to stop this thing and get back to normal.”

In response to the news that the federal government is reallocating doses it sends to states based on need, Hogan said he does not expect to see the numbers change much in Maryland.

“We anticipate using and getting our full share,” he said.

Hogan added that the state is “anxiously waiting” for a decision from the Food and Drug Administration to allow children aged 12 to 15 to receive the vaccine.

He said there are about 455,000 preteens and teenagers in that category, and when eligibility opens, the state will “proceed with them right away.”

The number of new coronavirus cases have been on a downward trend in the region. Maryland on Tuesday reported 501 new cases and six deaths, while the District reported 83 new cases and no deaths. Virginia reported 771 new cases and 16 deaths.

Correction: This article incorrectly referred to the Wayne K. Curry Sports and Learning Center in Landover, Md., as the Wayne K. Curry Sports and Learning Complex. The article has been corrected.

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