ANNAPOLIS — Maryland officials announced Tuesday that the first batch of 155,000 coronavirus vaccines could be distributed as soon as next week.
Gov. Larry Hogan said during a press conference at the State House in Annapolis that two companies, Pfizer and Moderna, are in line for approval from the federal Food and Drug Administration to distribute the vaccines.
The vaccines would be distributed in phases, with the first round going to those residing in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, along with health care workers. Those individuals would be in priority groups labeled “1A.”
Pfizer could receive approval from the FDA the week of Dec. 14, with Moderna expecting approval the following week.
Hogan said the state could receive up to 300,000 doses by the end of the month.
Hogan also announced the state health department issued an order allowing doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health care professionals to administer the vaccines “with appropriate training.”
“The cavalry is coming. A vaccine is on the way,” Hogan said. “But it is absolutely critical that we continue to fight this virus with everything we got. We all need to get doing the things that we know will help keep us safe.”
Some Americans have expressed concern about taking an unknown vaccine, however. According to a national Gallup poll conducted between Oct. 19 to Nov. 1, about 37 percent of “nonwhite adults” expressed concern about taking a vaccine through a rushed timeline and another 30 percent planning to wait to confirm its safety.
Marylanders who participated in a Goucher College poll in October showed a near split on taking a FDA-approved vaccine with 49 percent would not agree to a vaccine compared to 48 percent who would.
“To help demonstrate confidence in the safety of the vaccine, Lt. Gov. [Boyd] Rutherford and I will both take the vaccine in public as soon as it becomes available to us,” Hogan said. “We will be leading a statewide public health campaign urging all Marylanders to get vaccinated.”
Dr. Jinlene Chan, the state’s top health official leading the effort to distribute vaccinations, said the vaccines have shown a “high level of effectiveness” and minimal side effects during clinical trials.
The common side effects have included mild fever, joint aches and pain at the injection spot.
Chan said a second dose would be required with Pfizer distributing a second dose 21 days after the first dose, while Moderna’s would come nearly a month later.
Chan said the vaccine would be given in phases with another group labeled 1B for people with significant health risks such as chronic pulmonary disease and heart conditions. She said this group represents about 800,000 Marylanders.
The second round of vaccines would be for people in “critical, essential infrastructure roles” who work in education or for transit and utility companies. The state also included people who are at “moderately higher risk of severe COVID-19 illnesses” in this group.
The third and final phase will be for the general population, which can receive a vaccine through primary health care providers, local pharmacies or urgent care facilities.
“Our vaccination efforts will continue until all Marylanders are able to access vaccines,” Chan said.
The current tests have focused only on adults. However, future clinical trials will be done to assess the safety of vaccines for children.
Maryland’s coronavirus figures continue to rise with the health department reporting 1,000 or more confirmed cases for 35 straight days. Approximately 1,653 patients were hospitalized Monday, the highest daily figure since May 9.
About 50 people died from the virus Monday, the highest daily total since May.
Once a vaccine is approved, state officials still recommend for those who are vaccinated to follow health guidelines.
“The vaccine from what we know so far is that it will protect the person who’s getting vaccinated from getting the disease,” Chan said. “But it is still important for everyone to wear a mask, practice social distancing and hand washing to prevent potential transfer or spread of [the] disease to people who are unvaccinated.”