Montgomery County could begin administering COVID-19 shots to young children as soon as next week, if, as is anticipated, both the FDA and CDC approve the vaccine for that purpose, County Executive Marc Elrich said Wednesday.
“We are already preparing for pediatric vaccination of our 5 to 11 year-old kids, which could begin as early as next week,” Elrich said at a virtual news conference.
Elrich said the county is expected to initially receive about 13,000 doses and that they should arrive almost immediately after being approved by federal regulators.
Dr. James Bridgers Jr., who is the county’s acting health officer, said the county has been planning for pediatric vaccinations since mid-July.
“We have a fairly robust plan in place…We have over 112 pediatric providers in the county, excluding our hospitals and pharmacies…We will continue to run our community sites with extended hours.”
Bridgers said clinics are scheduled to solely administer pediatric vaccines Monday-Friday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Bridgers said that on weekends pediatric vaccination sites will be setup at schools throughout the county.
“Each cluster site will have 3 to 5 elementary schools in the region so that we can access those students who either walk or take the bus or who bike. These will be operated from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. on the weekends.”
Earl Stoddard, who is the county’s emergency management officer, said health officials will strive to deplete their entire stockpile of vaccines prior to the arrival of subsequent shipments.
“Our goal every week is to distribute the vaccine doses that we get from the state of Maryland to our 5 to 11 year-olds as quickly as possible. Our goal each week is to have zeroed-out that number before we receive our next shipment.”
Moreover, Stoddard said the county is working closely with the school system to identify young children who are immunocompromised so that they can be prioritized for vaccination.
“They will be an initial target of our vaccination campaign with the 5 to 11 year-olds. Because they are obviously at the most risk for those severe complications.”
Also, at Wednesday’s news conference, Elrich emphasized the importance of continuing to wear masks in indoor settings even after that practice is no longer a legal requirement.
The county’s indoor mask mandate is set to expire at 12:01 a.m. EST on Thursday morning.
The lifting of the mandate follows a Tuesday board of health vote and a longstanding pledge by Elrich that once the county’s COVID-19 transmission rate meets the CDC designation of moderate transmission risk for more than seven days that masks would no longer be required indoors.
As of Wednesday morning, the county’s positivity rate is 1.36%, according to the CDC, which is the lowest in the state.
“It is not like we have been locking up people and putting them away for doing that,” (not following the mandate) Elrich said in response to a question from MarylandReporter.com.
“Obviously there are some people who have not listened. We have gone through all this time. Just wait the thing out. This is not hurting anybody. Some people act like this is a major imposition on their lives. And that is just absurd,” the county executive added.
Earlier in the news conference, Elrich noted that businesses will still be allowed to require customers to wear masks when shopping indoors.
“They have the right to refuse entry or service for lack of compliance. Businesses are also allowed to require proof of vaccination for entry .”