All Marylanders age 16 and up will become eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of April, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) announced on Thursday.
The move from the current eligibility phase — 1C — through Phase 2 to the final stage, Phase 3, will come in steps, Hogan said.
And he cautioned that being eligible for a shot is no guarantee that residents will be able to get one immediately, as demand continues to outpace supply.
“We can’t schedule appointments for vaccines that we don’t have or that don’t yet exist,” he told reporters at a State House news conference.
The governor also stressed that people in Phase 1 who have yet to be vaccinated will continue to be prioritized by the state’s pre-registration system.
Nonetheless, he said the move to open vaccinations to everyone over the next six weeks represented a major milestone in the massive campaign that began in late December.
“Nearly 90% of the state’s 7,929 COVID deaths have been Marylanders over the age of 60. By prioritizing this age group, we will take a huge leap forward in the effort to protect our most vulnerable citizens from this virus,” Hogan said.
Phase 2A, which includes residents 60 and over, will open on March 23.
Maryland’s move to universal eligibility will occur over the next few weeks:
- Phase 2B, residents 16 and older with an underlying health condition, effective March 30.
- Phase 2C, residents 55 and over, as well as “essential” personnel who work in restaurants and the food industry, utility and construction workers, along with transportation, financial services and IT employees, effective April 13.
- Phase 3, all Marylanders 16 and over, effective April 27.
Residents 60 and older can pre-register effective immediately, at covidvax.maryland.gov or by calling 1-855-634-6829.
Earlier this month, President Biden urged states to open their vaccinations to all by May 1.
Maryland recently surpassed the 2-million dose mark. Nearly 1.3 million people have received at least one shot, and 740,887 had been fully vaccinated as of Thursday.
Hogan said White House officials recently warned states to expect only “incremental” increases in vaccine supply in the next couple weeks, with the expectation that “significant” increases will follow shortly thereafter.
“If they deliver on what they say they’re going to deliver, April is going to look a heck of a lot different than March.”
State to enlist family physicians and deploy mobile units
Hogan announced others steps the state is taking to diversify its population of vaccine-recipients:
- An undisclosed number of mobile clinics will be launched through a partnership with the University of Maryland School of Nursing. The clinics, which will function on a walk-up and drive-up basis, will focus on “hard-to-reach” communities. Each one will have the ability to administer between 60 and 160 doses per day. Staffing will be provided by the Maryland National Guard.
- Family doctors will soon get a role in providing vaccinations under a pilot program that seeks to leverage the rapport physicians have with their patients. Hogan said physicians “will be able to call their patients directly to schedule vaccine appointments, which will minimize technological and access barriers, and reach individuals where they are.” The pilot will begin with 37 practices that have largely Black and Hispanic patients, as well as though who don’t live close to other vaccination sites. The state’s doctors have been seeking a greater role in the vaccination program.
- The Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission will provide $12 million for hospital-based vaccination initiatives. Participating hospitals will work with local health departments, non-profits, faith-based organizations, and others to increase vaccine access, particularly in underserved areas.
By Bruce DePuyt