ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland is authorizing COVID-19 booster shots for all residents 65 and older who live in congregate care settings, Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday.
Residents in nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, residential drug treatment centers and developmentally disabled group homes are eligible in the state for boosters, the governor said.
“To be clear, these facilities in Maryland will not have to wait to begin offering boosters,” Hogan, a Republican, said at a news conference. “Boosters can now be immediately administered.”
While the federal government has yet to say when most people should get booster shots, Hogan said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has approved them for people who are immunocompromised, and a Maryland study indicates many in those facilities are immunocompromised.
“So we’re following CDC guidance but broadening the definition,” Hogan said.
The governor also announced that the state’s health department is issuing new guidance for pharmacies and other vaccine providers across the state to administer boosters without any need of a prescription or doctor’s order to anyone who considers themselves to me immunocompromised.
Hogan said Maryland has been laying groundwork for several months to administer booster shots statewide. Maryland continues to have a sufficient supply of vaccines on hand for anyone in need of a booster, he said, and the state is prepared to immediately move forward with making them available to the wider population immediately after receiving the clear guidance from the federal government.
“This is something we’re going to be living with for a long time, and we’ve got to build the infrastructure to be able to handle it in a normal way and so people will be able to get it at any doctor any pharmacy at thousands of locations at other facilities,” the governor said, noting that mass vaccination sites used earlier this year won’t be necessary.
Hogan, a cancer survivor who received his third vaccine dose last month, said states have had to operate without clear guidance from the federal government for several weeks about booster shots.
“The limited guidance we have received has been confusing and contradictory, and it is still unclear when and how more people will become eligible, but all of the evidence makes it abundantly clear that we cannot afford to delay taking decisive action to protect our most vulnerable citizens,” Hogan said.
The governor said 80% of eligible Marylanders 12 and older have received at least one vaccine dose, 95% of Marylanders 65 and older have received at least one dose and 68% of 12- to 17-year-olds have received at least one dose.
Last month, Maryland started an antibody testing program for nursing home residents to ascertain their current levels of immunity from COVID-19. It included more than 500 residents from across the state. The findings reported by the state health department indicate that more than 60% of residents demonstrated some form of waning immunity over time, and as many as one in three were particularly vulnerable, Hogan said.
The governor also said Maryland has completed more than 10,000 infusions of monoclonal antibodies. He credited them with helping to avoid about 500 hospitalizations and 200 fatalities. The treatments are available at more than 30 facilities.
The state reported an increase of 701 cases Wednesday morning, and 817 hospitalizations from the virus. The state reported 21 additional deaths, compared to the previous 24-hour period. At least 9,891 people have died from the virus in Maryland, according to the state.