ANNAPOLIS, MD — Maryland is preparing to roll out a coronavirus vaccine as soon one is authorized, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Tuesday. Though the hype for an immunization is swirling, the governor reminds Marylanders that vaccinating the entire state will take some time.
Hogan’s draft plan calls for a two-step rollout of a potential coronavirus shot. A person’s job and living situation would determine when they get an immunization, he says.
“In anticipation of a COVID-19 vaccine, Maryland stands ready to order, distribute, and administer it effectively and rapidly as soon as a vaccine becomes available,” Hogan said in a press release sharing the state’s proposal.
Hogan submitted a tentative strategy to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for approval last week. It is not yet finalized, and it is merely an overview of what the vaccination period could look like.
Health care and essential workers would get the immunization first, according to Hogan’s suggestion. Staff members and residents of nursing homes would also be eligible for the shot in the first phase.
“The State of Maryland’s plan for this historic undertaking will immediately make the vaccine available to Marylanders at highest risk of developing complications from COVID-19 as well as our critical frontline health care workers and essential workers in public safety and education,” Hogan added.
The Maryland Department of Health would track several key metrics to evaluate the state’s vaccination progress, according to the proposition. The state would create an immunization dashboard to keep an eye on:
Percent of Phase 1 population vaccinated
Percent and number of residents and staff at long-term care facilities vaccinated
Determination of an equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccine throughout the state for the Phase 1 population
Percent and number of Phase 1 population pre-registered
Once Maryland makes substantial progress in these areas and after the CDC approves, the state will offer the coronavirus shot to the general public. This could take a while though.
Vaccines must be stored at low temperatures, meaning high-tech equipment is necessary to chill the immunization during shipping. This specialization could slow the process down.
Furthermore, patients will need two doses of the shot, doubling the amount of product that needs to pass through a competitive shipping market. The doses will be separated by 21 to 28 days, adding time to the process.
The state hopes to sort out some of these logistics beforehand by pre-registering vaccine distributors and receivers. Maryland will handle ordering and scheduling in advance through a state database called ImmuNet.
“From provider recruitment and enrollment to vaccine storage and reminders about second doses, MDH has taken a very calculated approach to ensure the logistics, operations, and execution of this plan are thorough and efficient,” said Acting Deputy Secretary of Public Health Dr. Jinlene Chan.
Hogan’s plan could only start if a company finalizes an immunization, gets the proper authorization and mass produces millions of doses. Scientists are not there yet, but it is a competitive race to the finish line.
Nearly 40 Maryland corporations are working on potential coronavirus vaccines and treatments, Hogan claims. If one of these companies develops an immunization, it could undergo an expedited authorization review by the Food and Drug Administration.
This process is less thorough than the normal FDA approval procedure. That means an FDA-authorized shot could undergo less testing than other heavily-studied, FDA-approved medicines.
“As we learn more, our plan will continue to evolve,” Chan said, reminding Marylanders that medical outlooks and advice can change as the pandemic develops. “Our focus will always be on the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine to prevent the spread of the disease among Marylanders.”
The push for an immunization comes as Maryland’s coronavirus metrics continue to rise. The state’s case rate, positivity rate and hospitalizations are all pointing upward.
These increases forced Maryland onto the no-travel list of three northeastern states on Tuesday. Patch’s latest explanation of the trends is available here.
Hogan’s draft plan now awaits CDC authorization. It could be approved as is, modified slightly or rejected outright. The state’s strategy will not be final until the CDC gives it a thumbs up.
A full version of the proposal is posted at this link. The Department of Health answers some frequently asked questions on its website.
“[We developed] a draft plan that will ensure the swift, safe, and equitable administration of a life-saving COVID-19 vaccine,” Department of Health Secretary Robert Neall said in the release. “We stand ready to take additional action and operationalize this effort as soon as a vaccine becomes available.”
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This article originally appeared on the Annapolis Patch