Maryland Health Secretary Dennis Schrader said it could take at least six months to reach herd immunity in the state, which equates to about one million people.
Health officials would need a half-year to achieve herd immunity so residents receive some protection from COVID-19 based on two factors as of Monday, May 17: about 125,000 residents 65 and older remain unvaccinated and those ages 20-29 lead the state with the most confirmed coronavirus cases at nearly 84,000.
Schrader conducted a virtual presentation Monday before the Maryland Senate vaccine oversight work group which held its first meeting since the 90-day General Assembly session ended April 12.
“This is going to be really hard work,” Schrader said about the vaccination process. “It’s going to be a lot harder and probably a little more expensive. We’re not going to give up. We’re going to keep moving.”
So far, about 66% of the state’s population have received at least one dose of the two-shot Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines or the one-shot dose from Johnson & Johnson. Officials hope the overall percentage will soon increase statewide with teenagers ages 12 to 15 now permitted to receive the Pfizer vaccine.
In the first four days of the vaccine rollout for those adolescents, about 27,000 received the Pfizer vaccine. A total of 307,000 are in that age group.
A main push by state and local officials continues in efforts to reach the “wait and see” crowd and hard-to-reach communities.
Sen. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City) asked if each of the state’s 24 jurisdictions now have an available mobile unit.
Schrader declined to say how many the state currently occupies but said, “we’re going to have a lot more mobile assets than we currently have. That I can assure you.”
According to the state Department of Health, concerns remain that too few residents have been vaccinated in Baltimore City and municipalities and communities inside the Beltway in Prince George’s County.
Schrader said the state will continue to work with groups such as CASA de Maryland to help find Latino residents in northern Prince George’s.
Sen. Jim Rosapepe, a Democrat who lives in College Park but also represents portions of Anne Arundel County, asked if health officials have visited employers to see if they’re encouraging employees to get vaccinated.
“What is our employer strategy to do vaccinations at employer sites across the state of Maryland?” Rosapepe said.
Schrader said officials visited a Latino grocery store and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Prince George’s last week.
Mask mandates remain slightly different between the state and local jurisdictions.
Prince George’s County lifted restrictions Monday but people must wear face coverings at indoor venues and crowded places such as sporting events and concerts.
Baltimore officials announced similar restrictions Monday but said mask restrictions would be lifted once at least 65% of residents have received one dose of a vaccine.
With 50% of its population fully vaccinated, Montgomery County will match the state’s status May 28.
“This continues to be the most important thing that anyone is doing in state government,” said Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City). “By the fall, let’s make sure kids are back in school full time, please. Whatever it takes.”