Within two weeks after children ages 5 to 11 became eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines, Maryland Health Secretary Dennis Schrader said nearly 60,000 children ages 5 to 11 have received their first doses.
“We are out of the gates strong and already one of the leading states vaccinating 5- to 11-year-olds,” he said during a virtual briefing Monday, Nov. 15 before a Senate vaccine oversight work group. “We need to maintain our momentum, however, as we enter the holiday season and the colder, winter months.”
Schrader said children have been vaccinated by pediatricians, pharmacies and local health departments. But the places to reach children remain at schools, especially those which have vaccine clinics on site.
“We believe in order to get equitable distribution, we need to do vaccinations in schools,” he said.
That’s being done in several jurisdictions including Prince George’s County where mobile clinics can be found at 37 middle schools, 15 high schools and at the Sports and Learning Complex in Landover.
In the first three days since the clinics accepted children on Nov. 8, nearly 3,000 children ages 5 to 11 received the first dose from the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, the only one available for children, according to data from the county’s health department.
As of Sunday, Nov. 14, approximately 3,211 Prince George’s children ages 5 to 9 received their first dose from a Maryland or D.C. health provider. For those ages 10 to 19 about 65,685 doses have been administered.
“I didn’t feel anything at all. It was really quick and fast,” eight-year-old Anna Otto-Quarshie said 20 minutes after she received a shot in the arm Saturday, Nov. 13 at a clinic inside the Sports and Learning Complex in Landover.
As of Monday, about 3.7 million Marylanders count as fully vaccinated with the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and one-dose Johnson & Johnson. About 100,000 teenagers 12 to 17 and 590,000 adults ages 18 and older remain unvaccinated.
State data presented Monday showed jurisdictions with varying seven-day positivity case rates. Garrett County in Western Maryland recorded the highest case rate at nearly 17%. Montgomery County, which represents the state’s top jurisdiction, recorded the lowest at 1.7%. In addition, the vaccination rate in Maryland’s most populated county increased by 341% since children ages 5 to 11 became eligible.
During the same timeframe, the vaccination rate in Prince George’s County increased by 58%.
One major statistic shows vaccination rates by race, when children ages 5 to 11 became available, increased by 215% for Asian-American Marylanders, 180% by whites, 122% for Latinos but only 22% for Blacks.
Although the state ranks as one of the nation’s highest in administering vaccines, physician and Sen. Clarence Lam said there’s still an equity problem, especially with 500,000 Medicaid who remain unvaccinated.
“It sounds like there is racial disparity still going on. I’m concerned about that,” said Lam, a Democratic who represents portions of Baltimore and Howard counties.
Lam asked Schrader what the health department has done to use any of the state’s 90 school-based health centers to administer vaccines.
Schrader said there’s a plan being worked on now but won’t be in full effect until July 1.
With more than a half-million Marylanders who remain unvaccinated, Sen. Ron Young (D-Frederick County) said the state should enforce vaccine mandates.
“I think [a rise in COVID-19 cases will] come back,” said Young, who received his booster shot while in Florida. “I’m just concerned this is going to just keep repeating itself.”