- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 14, 2021

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday that more residents in their states are eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.

Officials in both states are racing to speed up the roll-out of vaccine distribution to combat the raging pandemic and try to get schools reopened quickly.

“Getting vaccinated is the single most important thing that you can do right now to save lives and to protect your friends and your family, and your community,” Mr. Hogan said at a press conference.

Maryland is activating “Phase 1B” for distribution, which includes all kindergarten-12th grade educators, staff and child care providers.

On Monday, that will expand to include residents over the age of 75, anyone residing in an assisted or independent living facility, persons with developmental disabilities or living in behavioral health group homes.

According to the Maryland Department of Health, 178,415 first doses and 15,840 second doses of the vaccine have been administered as of Thursday.

Mr. Hogan said the state has distributed 547,300 first and second doses to hospitals, local health departments and nursing homes — more than 99% of all doses allotted by the federal government.

Mr. Hogan said he hopes to move into the next phase of distribution, which lowers the age limits to those 65 and older, by Jan. 25.

Health Department data show that 317,815 Marylanders have contracted COVID-19 and 6,277 have died from it.

In Virginia, Mr. Northam said he is looking to have the entire state enter “Phase 1B” by the end of the month. He also expanded that group — which covers frontline workers and those 75 years old or older — to include people 65 and older or living with an underlying condition.

Both Mr. Northam and Mr. Hogan urged health care providers in their states to move as quickly as possible but warned that the process will still take a long time to get vaccines to most of residents.

“Monday, we vaccinated more than 15,000 [people]. Tuesday, it was more than 17,000,” Mr. Northam said at a press conference. “So I’m counting on everyone to help get this done.”

According to the Virginia Department of Health, the state has received 943,000 vaccine doses from the federal government and has administered about 242,000 doses. Data show that 417,839 Virginians have contracted the coronavirus and 5,626 have died from it.

Mr. Northam said during his State of the Commonwealth address Wednesday that his goal is to speed up vaccine distribution across the state and administer 25,000 doses as soon as possible.

Dr. Danny Avula, head of Virginia’s COVID-19 vaccination program, said 50,000 vaccine doses need to be administered daily throughout the state in order to reach herd immunity in a timely fashion.

To meet that goals, Dr. Avula said state officials will create fixed-site “mass vaccination” centers that will be operational six to seven days a week, staffed by the National Guard troops and contracted vaccinators.

Maryland officials also are working to establish mass vaccination sites, and have issued a new allowance for out-of-state health practitioners to administer vaccines in its borders.

They’re also launching a pilot program with Walmart and Giant stores on Jan. 25 to distribute vaccines at their pharmacies.

• Gabriella Muñoz can be reached at gmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

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