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Local COVID Vaccination Effort Presses Forward Despite Shortages

Public Awareness Campaign Emphasizes Safety and Effectiveness

“CalvertHealth is committed to partnering with the Calvert County Health Department to support the local vaccination effort,” said Chief Operating Officer Tony Bladen. “We believe the COVID-19 vaccine is a giant step to help move our community forward. It is also very important to get the word out about its safety and effectiveness.”

Bladen went on to add, “We are trying to help educate the community on the benefits of receiving the vaccine. Our goal is to encourage as many people as we can to get it… recognizing this is a personal decision for everyone.”

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Paul Pomilla of Calvert Internal Medicine Group addresses many of the concerns about the vaccine in a special column on page 5. Dr. Pomilla also joined CalvertHealth Pharmacist Kara Harrer, PharmD to answer frequently asked questions in an educational video available for viewing by scanning the code at the top of page 5.

Despite limited supply, Calvert County moved quickly to administer the doses received early on. According to the Maryland Department of Statistics as of Feb. 7, Calvert County has the fifth highest rate of vaccination among Maryland’s 24 counties.

Additionally, 100 percent of the vaccines received by the Calvert County Health Department (CCHD) have been administered. The Feb. 7 report showed 10,566 county residents had received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Outreach Prioritizes High-Risk Residents

Calvert County Health Officer Dr. Laurence Polsky told the county commissioners in January, “We’re going to continue to expedite this as best we can. It is our goal to administer the doses we receive as quickly as we reasonably can.”

Dr. Polsky said the first 100 doses were administered within four hours. In late December, another 800 doses were administered within 36 hours to first responders and other healthcare workers.

“This is a work in progress,” Dr. Polsky told the commissioners at the Jan. 5 briefing. “We don’t know from week to week when we will receive our next shipment of the vaccine and how many doses we’ll receive. Planning has been difficult to put it mildly.”

He went on to add, “We’re working with the primary care providers across the county to help identify those who are in the greatest medical need. I know there has been frustration but everything is being done in good faith.”

In addition to the 4,000 healthcare workers, first responders and classroom educators in Calvert who have been prioritized for vaccination in Phase 1A and 1B, there are 15,000 seniors who live in the county.

Health Department Spearheads Coordination

In spite of these challenges, Dr. Polsky said the health department has been working seven days a week to coordinate and administer vaccine doses since the first shipment was received with less than 24 hours notice on Dec. 17.

According to Dr. Polsky, the health department regularly discusses policies and planning with a group of more than 40 local doctors, nurse practitioners and hospital administrators to ensure the most efficient and fair process possible given the limitations of the resources and the urgency of the situation.

On Jan. 18, Calvert County opened its online pre-registration portal for the COVID-19 vaccine at www.calvertcountymd.gov/vaccine. Already, some 27,000 residents have signed up. For individuals unable to register online, you may call 410.535.0218. Residents are required to pre-register to be vaccinated at the CCHD drive-thru location at the Industrial Park in Barstow. For the most up-to-date information on where you can get vaccinated, go to: covidlink.maryland.gov.

A coordinated effort between the local office on aging, health department and CHMC has led to a higher percentage of vaccines going to seniors in Calvert than elsewhere in Maryland. This will continue to be a priority. The recent approval of a third vaccine should speed the pace of reaching those who are still in need of inoculation.

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