CUMBERLAND, Md. (WDVM) — Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has been out visiting parts of the state to see how communities are recovering from the pandemic. On Wednesday, he continued his tour of Western Maryland, making multiple stops around Cumberland including the mobile vaccine clinic in Greenway Avenue Stadium next to Fort Hills High School.
The vaccine clinic is designated for children and comes just over a week after the FDA expanded the emergency authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds.
Governor Hogan addressed members of the media after his tour of the clinic where he met with students receiving their vaccine as well as their parents accompanying them. He stressed the safety of the vaccine and explained it is the only way for the state to return to some sort of normalcy.
“These vaccines are very safe. Millions of them out there, and it really is the best way for us to get back to normal, and I want to see the kids getting back to normal this summer spending time with their friends,” Gov. Hogan said. “It’s wonderful to see kids back in school here in Allegany County. It just was great to see the smiles on their faces and to see how happy they are to be back with their teachers and their friends.”
The state and the Allegany County Health Department want to make the vaccine as accessible as possible. This has resulted in the creation of mobile clinics in communities farther from larger vaccination sites. The health department has completed around 15-20 mobile clinics at places like fire stations and even apartment complexes and plans to hold more in the future.
“It’s now available to anyone, anytime, anywhere, at 3000 locations. I think there’s about 20% of the folks that are kind of ambivalent,” Gov. Hogan said. “And they’re like, ‘well, you know, maybe I just haven’t gotten around to it or I’m not sure.’ Those are the ones that we want to try to sway because that extra 20% is really helpful to keep people safe.”
Jenelle Mayer, Allegany County Health Officer echoed the governor’s statements. She explained at the beginning of the pandemic, there was a rush of residents wanting to get vaccinated and the health department struggled to meet the demand. Now, the health department is seeing a decline in residents interested in receiving their vaccine. She hopes these mobile clinics will help improve the vaccination rate.
“So we’re continuing to do that to identify places that really could use vaccination on-site and going out and doing that,” Mayer said. “The more options there are for people, the more likely they are to get vaccinated, and to be able to talk to their provider, whether it’s their pharmacists or their doctor if they have any concerns, get their concerns stressed, they can go ahead and get vaccinated.”
The state recorded its lowest case rate per 100 thousand people of 5.89% on May 19th, and is the lowest level since July of 2020. Pfizer is currently carrying out a study on the vaccine’s safety, tolerability, and the type of immune response the body generates after receiving the vaccine in children 6 months old to 11 years old.
Regardless of the potential availability of the vaccine to younger children, Governor Hogan says the decision to require a COVID vaccine for students in order to return to school will be left up to local school systems, rather than directions from the state.