For the past year, Maryland Deputy Health Secretary Jinlene Chan held meetings with health and school officials, attended press briefings and traveled throughout the state to formulate ways to overcome the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
But on Wednesday, the certified physician spoke at a press briefing in Annapolis as a mom.
“I am here today, again, in all three of those roles, but most importantly, in my role as a mother who has children between the ages of 5 and 11 who now are eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19 disease,” she said. “Families including my own, and my wonderful husband, across the state and country have been challenged throughout the pandemic to be able to keep their children safe, while making sure that they can attend school, participate in activities and just be kids and hang out with their friends.”
Chan joined Gov. Larry Hogan and other health officials to inform parents that their children ages 5 to 11 are now eligible for a two-dose Pfizer vaccine regimen.
That age group represents about 515,000 in the state. About 180,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine — currently the only federally approved version for people younger than 18 — are expected to be distributed throughout the state in the next several weeks.
As of Wednesday, statewide hospitalizations decreased by 15 patients for a total of 553. Total hospitalizations have been below 600 people since Oct. 27.
The state also ranks as one of the best in the nation with nearly 87% of adults 18 and older having received at least one dose of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson or either of the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Chan said children ages 10 and younger represented 6% of the state’s confirmed cases this year. But recently, she said the figure increased to 14%.
Two health professionals joined the press conference in Annapolis to encourage parents to have their children vaccinated.
Dr. Monique Soleau-Burke, a pediatrician and vice president of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Maryland chapter, said her 13-year-old daughter received a vaccine as soon as it became available to those 12 and older.
“Vaccinating our children is the right thing to do,” she said.
In Prince George’s County, the health department received more than 10,000 doses so far ready to administer for children ages 5 to 11.
Parents can bring their children to the Wayne K. Curry Sports and Learning Center in Landover on Friday for a vaccination.
The public school system will host after-school mobile clinics starting Monday at 15 high schools for children 5 and older. Walk-ins are accepted, but appointments are preferred. Registrations to schedule appointments will be made available this week.
The majority-Black jurisdiction continues to lead the state in the most confirmed cases. As of Tuesday, county data shows Prince George’s with 99,973 confirmed cases.
Dr. George Askew, the county’s deputy chief administrative officer for health, human services and education, said children in Prince George’s being able to receive a vaccine “is a very big deal.”
“It’s a particularly big deal for our ability to keep children in school. To keep them from having to be quarantined. To keep them up to date on their educational attainment,” said Askew, who is also a pediatrician. “When kids have to be quarantined because they’ve been exposed and they’re not vaccinated, that means their parents have to be home taken care of them, or arrange for child care. For many families and many children in terms of their health and well-being, it’s a tremendous day.”
Click here for more information on COVID-19 vaccines and clinics in Prince George’s.