What you need to know about the COVID vaccine in Montgomery County

February 22, 2021

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Graphic by Evelyn Shue

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued the first emergency authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19 in individuals who are 16 years of age or older.

The recent rollout of COVID-19 vaccines across the U.S is hoped to end the pandemic, but the limited vaccine supply means that distribution may take awhile and that vaccinations are limited to certain patients. According to Maryland.gov, the federal government is giving the state approximately 12,000 doses per day for over 2 million people who are eligible.

Despite supply issues, people are still proud of the advances made. “It is a medical miracle. The way in which [the vaccine] was created and the speed with which it was able to be put out is amazing…In a time where it is easy to be cynical about human progress, this is a bright spot,” orchestra and band teacher Dr. Peter Perry said.

As of Feb. 13, 9.77 percent of county residents received one dose of the vaccine and 2.98 percent had received both doses. This is nearly double the amount from two weeks before, when only 5.54 percent of country residents received the first dose and 0.9 received both.

“I, like many teachers, am feverishly trying to get a vaccine. We are trying to do the best we can to protect everyone and add that extra layer of protection. Most teachers I know feel this way,” Dr. Perry said.

Not all residents are eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine as of right now. Maryland is currently in Phase 1C, which includes adults 65 to 74, some essential workers, and others. However, vaccine prioritization is subject to change and the state may not wait for every member in a particular group to be vaccinated before moving on. Vaccine information can be found here.

Montgomery County priority groups are outlined here and here. The county is making appointments for all tiers of Phase 1A and some of 1B. Residents must preregister online; again, clinics are by appointment only and no walk-ups are allowed.

After preregistering, the county will contact residents through text or email to make an appointment once vaccine doses are made available. The text or email will include a link for scheduling an appointment as well as a list of available clinic dates, locations, and times.

To look for places accepting appointments ahead of time, simply run a Google search. The state has partnered with pharmacies such as Giant and Safeway to administer vaccines. Besides pharmacies and state-run clinics, vaccines are also offered by hospitals and health centers such as Holy Cross Health, Medstar Montgomery Medical Center, Adventist Healthcare, and Johns Hopkins Medicine. Appointment slots may be full in certain locations so it is important to check out each website availability as well as the groups being prioritized.

County officials are asking residents who are ineligible to receive the vaccine not to sign up for an appointment, as it slows down vaccination sites. Appointments made by people who are ineligible to get the vaccine have led to frequent delays of up to two hours.

Many are angry with the computer system being used to schedule appointments and are blaming MoCo leadership for issues in the rollout. The difference between state and county guidelines has also caused some confusion.

“A problem is that some sites do vaccinate group 1C (65+) but others do not. I find that the retail pharmacies (CVS, Giant, Walgreens) do but County clinics and private hospitals often don’t. The inconsistency is maddening and difficult to work with,” a user commented under Bethesda Magazine’s article.

As some Montgomery County residents do not have access to computers and are not able to make appointments online, the county has set up a Pre Register Helpline, which can be reached at 240-777-2982. The helpline is open seven days a week from 8 am to 6 pm to help people fill out the form.

In the meantime, it is unlikely that people can choose which vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) to get and should take whatever is offered, as both are proven to be highly effective. For more information, CDC has an FAQ page to answer commonly asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

 

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What you need to know about the COVID vaccine in Montgomery County