Maryland takes steps to speed coronavirus vaccine rollout

Maryland takes steps to speed coronavirus vaccine rollout
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Maryland is taking steps to speed up the slow pace of vaccination rollout by adding additional people into the top tiers of its coronavirus vaccine priority groups and ensuring hospitals use every available dose, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said Tuesday.

Phase 1A, which is ongoing, will now include all licensed and certified health providers, as well as first responders like firefighters, police and EMS.

The group alone is about half a million people, Hogan said during a press conference, so the vaccination process will take time.

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Phase 1B will include all Maryland residents over age 75, as well as high-risk inmates, teachers, people living in special needs group homes and vaccines for people involved in “continuity of government.”

Hogan said he expects to begin vaccinations under Phase 1B by the end of this month. However, the state will no longer wait before all the members of a particular priority group are completed before moving on to the next group.

In addition, Hogan also said that hospitals which don't use at least 75 percent of their total allotted doses may have future allocations reduced. 

He acknowledged the slow pace of vaccinations, which like much of the country have lagged behind the allocated doses. 

“While none of us are thrilled with the pace of this rollout over the first few weeks, I can assure you it is improving every day," Hogan said.

As of Tuesday, Maryland has completed a cumulative total of about 77,000 vaccinations. The Centers for DIsease Control and Prevention reported more than 290,000 doses have been distributed in the state. 

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The governor said he had "long and productive discussions'' with the CEOs of Walgreens and CVS about the pace of nursing home vaccinations. The pharmacies are responsible for administering vaccines in nursing homes and other long term care facilities as part of a federal program.

CVS reported administering fewer than 14 percent of all allocated doses, but Hogan said because of data lags and reporting issues, the company has actually completed more than twice as many vaccinations as have been reported.

To better track vaccinations, Hogan issued an executive order requiring all vaccine providers to report data on the state’s site, Immunet, within 24 hours. 

“Either use the doses that have been allocated, or they will be allocated to another provider,” he said. 

Hogan said until the federal government authorizes more vaccinations, current supply will be limited.

In the first three weeks since vaccines have been distributed by the federal government, Maryland has only received enough vaccines for 4.4 percent of the population. At the current pace of allocation, Maryland will have enough doses for only about 30 percent of the population by May.