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Maryland to prioritize vaccines for health departments quickly administering doses

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D) during a visit to a Giant pharmacy vaccination site in Capitol Heights.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D) during a visit to a Giant pharmacy vaccination site in Capitol Heights. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)
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Maryland health departments that do not administer all of their coronavirus vaccine doses within one week might see their allotments given to other providers, Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday.

The new policy is intended to encourage local health departments, which focus on the highest priority recipients, to schedule appointments for each available dose. Health departments with speedier delivery could see an increases in doses at the expense of those administering vaccinations at a slower pace, Hogan said.

The change is the latest alteration in the vaccine’s rollout across the Washington region as leaders facing a surge in demand work to distribute a limited number of doses.

Hogan (R) on Tuesday also announced three new mass vaccination sites will open in Maryland this month, bringing the total to six across the state.

A site will open Thursday at a minor league baseball stadium in Charles County, with appointments available beginning Tuesday evening. The first mass vaccination site on the Eastern Shore is scheduled to open March 19 at the Wicomico Civic Center in Salisbury, and a Western Maryland site in Hagerstown is expected to open by the end of the month.

Vaccine doses also will increase at existing sites, doubling in Prince George’s County and Baltimore City, Hogan said.

Even with the expanded doses this week, Hogan acknowledged public frustration with the hunt for vaccine appointments across multiple websites and warned it will continue until supply increases.

“I completely understand the frustration. I’m frustrated,” Hogan said. “There are about a million people who are currently eligible for the vaccine, who we cannot schedule for a vaccine.”

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Montgomery County officials on Tuesday reiterated their calls for a state-run mass vaccination site in the county, which is Maryland’s most populous jurisdiction.

Head of Emergency Management Earl Stoddard told lawmakers he recently toured Montgomery College’s Germantown campus as a possible option for a county-run, large-scale vaccination site. The underlying goal, he added, would be “show the state that a mass site is possible” or persuade state leaders to increase the county’s allocation of doses based on the success of that site.

“We have the capacity,” county Health Officer Travis Gayles said in urging the state to increase Montgomery’s share of doses.

Both Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D) and all members of the Montgomery County Council for weeks have criticized the state’s decision not to locate a mass vaccination site in the county.

“The data is there and it continues to slap us in the face,” County Council member Nancy Navarro (D-District 4) said about the effects of the coronavirus on the county’s diverse population. “And here we are, still begging for a mass vaccination site . . . It’s exhausting.”

Hogan also announced Tuesday that Robert Redfield, former president Donald Trump’s director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has joined his administration as a senior adviser for public health. Redfield’s tenure at the CDC coincided with the Trump administration’s politicization of the science surrounding how to mitigate the pandemic.

In Maryland, Redfield will advise the governor on how to deal with virus variants, the rollout of the vaccine and future reopening plans, Hogan said.

As racial disparities in vaccine distribution continue to widen, Hogan also announced his administration will unveil a detailed plan Thursday to address inequity and to better target vaccines to populations that have disproportionately died during the pandemic.

Coronavirus cases and metrics in D.C., Maryland and Virginia

Maryland had administered 1,364,145 vaccine doses as of Tuesday, with 485,911 people fully vaccinated, according to data compiled by The Washington Post. Virginia has administered 2,136,926 doses, with 737,028 people having received their second dose. The District has administered 198,047 doses, with 68,370 people fully vaccinated.

The greater Washington region recorded 1,936 new coronavirus infections Tuesday and 186 fatalities. Virginia added 1,385 cases and 160 deaths, Maryland added 468 cases and 26 deaths; and D.C. added 83 cases and no additional deaths.

Deaths in Virginia continued to spike because of a lag in processing death certificates from earlier in the year, health officials say. The state’s software had not properly been flagging new virus-related deaths.

The rolling seven-day average number of new infections in the region has continued to fall since peaking at 8,698 on Jan. 12. On Tuesday, that number stood at 2,570.

The Virginia Department of Health announced Tuesday that the South African variant of the coronavirus was found in Northwest Virginia in a sample from an adult resident with no history of travel during the exposure period. Virginia had 24 reported variant cases through Sunday, of which 20 cases were the United Kingdom variant and four were the South African one.

But the U.S. lags in testing infections for the variants.

Meantime, officials are preparing for doses of a new vaccine, from Johnson & Johnson. The District will receive 6,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine over the next two weeks, according to D.C. mayoral spokeswoman Susana Castillo.

Julie Zauzmer and Antonio Olivo contributed to this report.

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