ANNAPOLIS — Marylanders 16 and older can receive a COVID-19 vaccine at one of the state’s mass vaccination sites starting Tuesday, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Monday.
Hogan also said all vaccine providers will be available to those in that age group starting April 12, though 16- and 17-year-olds can only receive the Pfizer vaccine because it’s the only one currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for ages 16 and older.
The general public previously wasn’t scheduled for eligibility until April 27, but the timetable was accelerated as more vaccines became available and amid a growing urgency in the “race” against the coronavirus variants fueling a surge in cases nationwide. More than 600 strains have been found in Maryland with the majority coming from a variant first found in the United Kingdom.
“Even though we’re open up eligibility for everyone, that does not mean everyone will be able to immediately get an appointment,” Hogan said during a press briefing at the Statehouse in Annapolis. “With the supply of doses increasing over the next month or so, a vaccine should be available for everyone who wants one.”
Currently, the state is Phase 2B of its vaccination plan, which opens up eligibility to those 60 and older, residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities and diabetic and sickle cell patients.
As of Monday, the state health department reported the daily number of confirmed cases increased by 859 for a statewide total of nearly 418,190.
The number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 increased by 34 people within a 24-hour period to 1,165, the highest total since February. However, the number of intensive care patients remain low at 22%.
The supply of vaccines from the federal government permits the state to open more vaccination sites. About three million people received at least the first dose of the vaccine in Maryland. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, while the Johnson & Johnson-developed vaccine requires only one shot.
The state opened six mass vaccination sites so far, including one at Six Flags America in Prince George’s County.
Similar to the Wicomico Civic Center in Salisbury, the site at Hagerstown Premium Outlets will accept walk-in patients starting Tuesday. No appointments will be necessary next week at the M&T Bank Stadium site in Baltimore.
A seventh mass vaccination site opened Monday at the Timonium Fairgrounds in Baltimore County.
Montgomery College’s campus in Gaithersburg opened Monday to county residents only, but will transform into the state’s eighth mass vaccination site Thursday, serving all Maryland residents.
Another mass vaccination will open Thursday at the Greenbelt Metro station parking lot, but will be managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Maryland will open four more vaccination sites this month, including two next week at the Frederick Community College in Frederick County and Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.
Ripken Stadium will house a site in Aberdeen the week of April 19. The following week the Mall at Columbia in Howard County will mark the state’s 12th mass vaccination site.
The state has averaged more than 61,300 vaccinations per day. With more doses due to arrive from the federal government, the goal remains 100,000 doses daily.
Ted Delbridge, executive director of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems, said younger adults increasingly are being hospitalized for COVID-19 cases.
“In the past five weeks, the proportion of new COVID-19 cases affecting people 60 years and older has decreased by 30%,” said Delbridge, a board-certified physician. “They also represent a lower proportion of hospitalized patients. These are the people who were in the first waves of vaccine rollout. This is one factor in the efforts to broaden the eligibility for vaccinations to as many people as possible.”
For more information or to register online, go to https://coronavirus.maryland.gov/pages/vaccine. Those with limited or no internet access can call 1-855-634-6892.