GERMANTOWN, Md. (WDVM) — On Tuesday, Governor Larry Hogan opened up COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all Marylanders age 16 and older at the state’s mass vaccination sites. He also authorized walk-up vaccinations at the Hagerstown and Salisbury vaccination sites.
With more Marylanders now eligible to get the vaccine and more mass vaccination sites set to open across the state, leaders in Montgomery County say they’re still working to move through priority groups.
Montgomery County leaders say there’s a list of over 34,000 county residents with underlying health conditions who have pre-registered for a spot to get their shot. Director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security Dr. Earl Stoddard said the actual number of people in Montgomery County with qualifying conditions is over 100,000.
He said it would take two weeks’ worth of appointments just to get through the people in that category who have pre-registered.
Local health officials say they want to get through that list before moving on to the general public.
The county’s chief health officer Dr. Travis Gayles and Dr. Stoddard emphasized during a briefing with county leaders Tuesday morning, “Just because you’re eligible, doesn’t mean you’re next in line for an appointment.”
They said the county wants to continue to prioritize residents for appointments based on need, even though Governor Larry Hogan’s order requires the county to open eligibility along with state guidance.
Dr. Stoddard said those leading the county’s vaccination efforts have talked about what walk-up operations could look like at the Montgomery County mass vaccination site at the Montgomery College Germantown campus.
“We’ve heard the Governor’s message about wanting to move to a more open process. It just might be a few weeks for us, and a few less weeks for other places,” Dr. Stoddard said.
While Montgomery County has thousands of residents waiting for a spot, leaders say other mass vaccination sites across the state aren’t being used to their fullest potential. The Governor is now allowing walk-up vaccinations without appointments in both Hagerstown and Salisbury, the state’s westernmost and easternmost mass vaccination sites, respectively.
Montgomery County leaders think there’s likely a number of factors influencing the lower turnout at those sites.
“People who identify themselves as politically conservative are some of the more hesitant people, so you would expect in ‘redder’ counties, you would have fewer people at the sites,” Dr. Stoddard said.
According to a Pew Research study from March, 82 percent of Democrats said they’re planning to get the vaccine or already have, compared to just 56 percent of Republicans.
Later this week, state resources will move into the Germantown site to help the county with operations at Montgomery College. Leaders say they’re hoping to administer 3,000 shots per day once everything is in full swing.
To see a map of all of the current and announced mass vaccination sites in the state of Maryland, or to search for another vaccination site near you, click here.