Dear Prince Georgians:
On Monday, I held a press conference and announced that due to the limited supply of vaccine, we are cancelling appointments for individuals who do not live or work in the County that have scheduled appointments at our vaccination sites. We do not yet have the supply we need to vaccinate everyone here and must prioritize our vulnerable County seniors and workers at this time. Our Health Department continues to replace those cancelled appointments with seniors and eligible workers in our County to ensure they will be able to receive the vaccine.
When counties in Maryland first started receiving vaccines, the State gave guidance that said counties should not restrict vaccinations to just those who lived or worked in their respective counties. We followed that guidance, and as we prepared to move to Phase 1B, we put the link to the State website on our vaccine page so people could sign up for appointments that we had opened. It was not clear if we could override this guidance.
A few days later, new and clearer guidance was issued by the State allowing counties to make restrictions, which prompted our Health Department to change course. When we looked at last week’s vaccination appointments, a third of those in Phase 1B who received vaccines from our clinic did not live or work in our County, and there were several hundred appointments coming up this week for individuals who did not live or work in our County. While this decision may bring disappointment to many outside of this county, the reality is we had to ensure our seniors, workers, and residents facing the most significant health and infection risk challenges with regard to COVID-19, in the jurisdiction hardest hit by this pandemic, had equitable opportunity to receive these life-saving vaccines, as other counties have done.
If we did not restrict our vaccine appointments to just those who lived or worked in the County, our residents would have been left with far fewer options to receive these life-saving vaccines where they actually live and/or work. While it is a difficult decision to have to turn people away, I am confident that other counties will work just as quickly as we are to provide these vaccines to their seniors, workers and others who are eligible at this time. We look forward to collaborating with our neighbors and solving the problems presented by this pandemic together.
While we cannot honor the first dose appointments for individuals who do not live or work in the County, those individuals who have already received a first dose at the Health Department will be able to get their second dose here as well. At this time, we are only vaccinating individuals eligible in Phases 1A and 1B who live or work in the County. Individuals in those groups who have pre-registered will be prioritized for appointments that continue to open. We will also be checking identification for proof of residency or proof of employment in Prince George’s County for every vaccination appointment going forward.
All individuals who live or work in the County that wish to receive a vaccine must complete and submit a pre-registration form. Individuals who fill out the pre-registration form will be sent private, direct links from the Health Department when it is time for you to make an appointment. For those who have already received a first dose and are concerned about receiving a second dose, our Health Department will send you a link to schedule an appointment at least a week before the appointment date that you need. Moving forward, we are providing links to individuals to schedule their second dose appointment at the time of the first appointment, and also offering assistance on-site with scheduling your second appointment before you leave. However, if there are no appointments listed at that time, the Health Department will send you a link approximately a week before the date that you need.
In addition, I announced Monday that the County has entered Phase 1C of our vaccine distribution plan, for pre-registration only. We want to make sure all of our residents understand that it will take several weeks, or longer, for individuals in Phase 1C to receive appointments for a vaccination. There are 95,000 people in Phase 1B alone, and we need to continue to prioritize those who have signed up in Phase 1A and 1B who have not yet received appointments.
However, those who live or work in the County and are eligible in Phase 1C should pre-register as soon as possible. If you are in Phase 1C and have pre-registered, you will receive appointments as they become available. I also want to note that, previously, the County cancelled all scheduled appointments at the Sports & Learning Complex after February 9. Individuals in Phase 1C that live or work in the County, and already have an appointment scheduled between now and February 9, will not have their appointments cancelled. You will not need to pre-register as long as you keep this appointment.
In addition, on Monday, February 1, 2021, the County will launch a vaccination hotline that will assist individuals, who have technology barriers, with pre-registration and scheduling appointments over the phone.
Finally, based on the latest seven-day average, our positivity rate has dropped to 8.5% as of January 23. As a result, we will cautiously resume indoor dining at noon on Friday, January 29, 2021, at 25% capacity. To be clear, this virus is still very much a part of our community, but I believe we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We are still working to vaccinate as many Prince Georgians as we can while we maintain testing and contact tracing. It will be up to all of us to help slow the spread.
I want to caution our residents and restaurant owners to do everything they can to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Please practice social distancing, follow our public health capacity and sanitization guidelines, and wear a mask in public. I want to thank all of you once again for bearing with us as we work through this newest challenge, and for doing your part to stop the spread of COVID-19.
For the past year, we have had to confront a host of new challenges that this pandemic has thrown at us. While the development of these vaccines and the task of administering them to thousands of residents has been a challenge, we are working diligently to get these vaccines into the arms of the people that need them most. As new challenges arise, we will continue to be transparent, communicate with you and do everything in our power to fix them.
By prioritizing Prince Georgians in our vaccine effort now, we are making sure Prince Georgians have equitable access to this life-saving vaccine. Thank you for bearing with us as we work to expand the number of residents who are Proud to be Protected from COVID-19. When your turn comes, I urge you to get the vaccine so you can protect your family, loved ones, friends, neighbors and fellow Prince Georgians.
Yours in service,
Prince George’s County Executive