Maryland’s seniors who live in nursing homes and/or related facilities are now able to receive COVID-19 booster shots, Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday.
“Today the Maryland Department of Health will issue an order which makes all Marylanders 65 and older who are living in congregate care settings immediately eligible for booster shots,” Hogan said at a news conference at the State House in Annapolis.
Hogan added: “This health order applies to all nursing homes, assisted living facilities, residential drug treatment centers, and developmentally disabled group homes. To be clear, these facilities in Maryland will not have to wait to begin offering boosters. Boosters can now be immediately administered.”
Additionally, the department is “issuing new guidance” to require the state’s pharmacies and related providers to begin the administration of booster shots without a doctor’s order to immunocompromised Marylanders, Hogan said. All administered doses must be reported to the state, the governor added.
Hogan said the federal guidance regarding booster shots has at times been less than clear and that the state is ready to begin administration to the general public as soon as the matter is straightened out.
“We are fully prepared to immediately move forward with making boosters available to the wider population immediately upon receiving the clear guidance from the federal government.”
Hogan emphasized that focus on the administration of boosters will not distract the state from its “primary mission” of getting Marylanders vaccinated with their respective first and second doses.
Hogan noted that less than 0.02% of the vaccinated Marylanders who contracted COVID-19 required hospitalization.
The governor touted a new program the state has launched, which includes setting up mobile clinics in underserved areas, to reach the estimated 19% of Marylanders who have yet to be inoculated against the virus.
As far as hospitalization rates go, they are down more than 60% from their peak at the height of the pandemic, and hospitals are not currently considered at risk of being overburdened with patients, Hogan said.
Maryland Hospital Association President and CEO Bob Atlas echoed similar sentiments in a statement to MarylandReporter.com.
“Hospitals have seen a significant rise in COVID patients since early July and this is now being combined with the needs of other Marylanders who have critical care needs. Throughout the state there is still capacity available. We urge all Marylanders to get vaccinated.”
There are 505,557 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland as of Wednesday morning, according to the Department of Health, and 9,891 people in Maryland have died from the virus. The state’s positivity rate is 4.68%, which is within CDC recommended guidelines for containment. Maryland has conducted more than 12.2 million COVID-19 tests.
About 82% of the people in Maryland have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and about 58% of the people in the state have received both doses of the vaccine.
Nationally, about 53% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the CDC, which makes Maryland the seventh most vaccinated state.
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is the only booster shot that has been approved for use.
White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci has said approval for the Moderna booster shot could be delayed.