Covid vaccines to be distributed within days

The initial round of the Covid-19 vaccine arrived in Maryland on Monday, with the first doses going to critical health care workers and residents of nursing homes.

Dr. Kathryn Fiddler.

Local health officials were still waiting for shipments of the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday, and they expected the drug to arrive in Salisbury within days.

“I think for many of us it’s all sorts of emotions,” said Dr. Kathryn Fiddler, Vice President of Population Health at TidalHealth Peninsula Regional. “I think the thing I feel the most is hope.”

The hospital will begin vaccinating health care workers in the emergency room, the intensive care unit and the Covid unit because they are the most at risk, she said. After that, the vaccine will be offered to staff across all of TidalHealth’s locations.

Residents of area nursing homes also could begin receiving vaccinations by the end of the week through the CVS and Walgreens drug store chains, said Jennifer Johnson, spokeswoman for the Wicomico County Health Department. The health department also will administer shots to other frontline workers and first responders.

“Eventually we will get to the phase when we vaccinate the public,” she said.

The Pfizer vaccine got emergency use approval from the Food and Drug Administration late last week and shipments of it began Sunday. The two-shot vaccine, which has been shown to be 95 percent effective in randomized trials, but it may have some minor side effects.

Fiddler said pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, fatigue or a low-grade fever are all normal reactions and nothing to cause concern.

“This is the reaction that the body is saying ‘I’m getting ready to become immune to a virus’,” she said.

TidalHealth plans to stagger vaccinations in departments in case some staff members have side effects. A second shot is required 17 to 21 days after the initial dose.

Since the vaccine may not be available to the general public until the spring, local health officials continued to urge everyone to wear masks, practice social distancing and wash their hands.

The Wicomico County Health Department is continuing to offer free testing and has moved its Coronavirus testing to the Midway Room of the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center.

Those who want a test should call to make an appointment at 410-912-6889 or 410-543-6943.

Testing is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 21, 9 a.m. to noon; Tuesday, Dec. 22, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and Wednesday, Dec. 23, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The following week testing will be held Tuesday, Dec 29, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Wednesday, Dec. 30, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Statewide distribution

Frontline health care workers at the University of Maryland Medical System were the first people in the state to receive the vaccination on Monday.

“Yesterday was truly a day of hope,” Gov. Larry Hogan said during a Tuesday afternoon news conference.

Every hospital in the state will receive doses starting this week.

Maryland will get 155,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Another vaccine from Moderna is expected to get approval from the FDA as soon as this week, with more doses slated for Maryland.

Between Pfizer and Moderna, the state will get up to 300,000 doses by the end of the month, Hogan said.

Phase 1A of the vaccination plan will focus on critical health care workers, long-term care facilities and first responders.  The state has signed up all of the state’s 227 nursing homes and 1,668 assisted living facilities for the federal distribution partnership through CVS and Walgreens.

Distribution has started this week for the Pfizer vaccine, and it is expected to start the week of Dec. 21 for the Moderna vaccine.

The numbers

As of Tuesday, Wicomico County has had 3,990 confirmed cases of Covid-19 with 69 deaths.

The patient count in Somerset is now 1,488 with 13 deaths.

Additional cases have also been confirmed in Worcester County, which now reports 1,748 people as having the virus and 39 deaths.

Dorchester County counts 1,177 cases with 17 deaths. There are 1,182 reported cases in Caroline County with 10 deaths.

Statewide in Maryland, 239,362 cases have been confirmed, with 5,039 deaths reported. The current hospitalization totals of people with the virus stands at 1,799.

Across Maryland, more than 2.3 million people have tested negative for the virus.

Nationally, there are now more than 16 million cases with 302,689 deaths as of Tuesday.

Covid relief efforts

Last week, Hogan announced a series of additional Covid-19 health and economic relief initiatives to help struggling Maryland families and small businesses.

Among the measures are:

  • Emergency tax relief for small businesses. The governor has issued an executive order to prevent small businesses from facing major increases in their unemployment taxes. An employer’s 2021 tax rate will be calculated based on their non-pandemic experience by excluding the 2020 fiscal year, and instead by using the last three fiscal years of 2017, 2018, and 2019. 
  • Forgiveness of $75 million in emergency loans. The Department of Commerce will forgive the $75 million in emergency loans that the state provided to businesses during the first round of economic relief in March and convert them all to grants. 
  • $37 million for affordable housing. The state anticipates providing nearly $25 million to finance approximately 2,000 units of low-income housing—a new record. The governor also announced that he is releasing an additional $12 million to the Rental Housing Works program to spur more construction and more jobs across the state.

Helpful Coronavirus links

Maryland Department of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage

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