County Executive Alsobrooks Outlines Plan to Ramp Up Vaccine Distribution
Dear Prince Georgians:
Over the last 10 months we have seen unprecedented changes in our lives and the world. However, due to the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines, 2021 holds so much promise and I can assure you that COVID-19 will not have the final say. On Wednesday, I held a press conference to provide the latest updates on our County’s COVID-19 response and discuss how we are ramping up our COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts.
As of January 5, approximately 4,058 Prince Georgians have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. While our distribution efforts have been limited by the number of vaccination staff we have, the truth is we need help, and we are working to get that help. We anticipate ramping up our efforts significantly over the next week and we have identified additional staff to support our vaccination efforts.
We now have Health Department nurses, Fire and EMS personnel, school nurses who have volunteered to assist, and contract nurses brought on to ramp up our efforts. In addition, yesterday the Maryland National Guard sent us medical and administrative personnel to assist us in our mass vaccinations. At this time, we are making sure we have the infrastructure in place to rapidly deploy each dose to the people who need it most.
In addition, we are opening the Sports and Learning Complex as a vaccination site for our first responders in the Fire/EMS Department who are eligible for a vaccine, as well as State employees who are operating the testing site at Six Flags. We are also opening the D. Leonard Dyer Regional Health Center in Clinton as a vaccination site on January 18, and a site in Laurel by the first week in February. These sites are not open to the public at this time and will only be available to those who are eligible to receive the vaccine in Phase 1A and have an appointment.
Over the coming weeks, COVID-19 vaccines will be distributed through a phased approach that will focus on protecting our most at-risk populations first, based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the State of Maryland. Right now, we are in the beginning of Phase 1A of the vaccine distribution plan, with the current supply of vaccines going primarily to frontline healthcare workers, long-term care facilities, and first responders.
Healthcare providers, such as primary care physicians, urgent care staff and dialysis center staff, are in Phase 1A of our vaccine distribution plan. These providers need to fill out our Health Department’s vaccination pre-registration form that informs our Health Department of how many employees are in your respective offices that must be vaccinated. After you have completed and submitted that form, you will be contacted when it is time to schedule your vaccinations.
While we are still very much in Phase 1A of our vaccine distribution effort, I want to explain Phases 1B and 1C for our residents. Our Phase 1B vaccine distribution effort will include older adults ages 75 and up and essential workers at high-risk of exposure. While the schedule is subject to change, the essential workers included in Phase 1B are child care workers, teachers and support staff, and critical government leadership for continuity of operations.
By the time we move to Phase 1B, doctors will have had an opportunity to receive the vaccine themselves. Our hope is that primary care physicians will, by that point, be able to perform vaccinations. We hope to enter Phase 1B of our vaccine distribution plan by early February, at the latest.
During Phase 1C, adults 65-74 years of age will become eligible, along with essential workers from other sectors, such as grocery store workers, postal service workers, and public transit workers. While the timeline is subject to change, we hope to be able to begin Phase 1C in March. At this time, we know that when we enter Phases 1B and 1C, residents who are eligible to receive a vaccine will be able to schedule an appointment online through the State. No vaccination sites or appointments are available to the public at this time.
Prince Georgians, please understand this will be a long process, but we’re going to get through this as quickly as we can. We do not have a hard and fast timeline for how we will proceed through Phases 1A, 1B, and 1C, but as we continue administering vaccines, we will continue to keep you updated.
I am also excited to announce that our COVID-19 vaccine data dashboard is officially live. This dashboard will help keep you informed of the progress the County is making with vaccine distribution and provide an easy way for you to see how many fellow Prince Georgians are Proud to be Protected. The data in this dashboard includes hospitals that have received shipments of COVID-19 vaccines, long-term care facilities receiving vaccinations through our CVS and Walgreens pharmacy partnership, and vaccinations administered directly by our County Health Department.
Finally, I want to encourage every resident of Prince George’s County to get vaccinated when the time comes. I know there is great skepticism, but I wouldn’t ask any Prince Georgian to do something I wouldn’t do myself. I can assure you these vaccines are safe and effective at preventing COVID-19. I received my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and I’m happy to report that I did not experience any side effects, and I am looking forward to receiving my second dose. I encourage every resident of Prince George’s County to join me and feel Proud to be Protected from COVID-19. When we take this vaccine, it not only protects us, but also protects our spouses, family, friends, neighbors and those with whom we worship.
This process is going to take some time, not only here in Prince George’s, but across this nation. While we wait for our COVID-19 vaccinations, we must continue to remain vigilant and use safe practices to keep ourselves and our family safe. We are not yet done with this pandemic, and unfortunately our COVID-19 metrics continue to rise.
The County’s COVID-19 positivity rate has continued to rise, reaching 11.6 percent during the last week of December. The average daily case rate is also at the critical level, with 41.8 people per 100,000 residents contracting COVID-19 each day. The number of inpatients with COVID-19 has also more than tripled over the past two months. We can stop the spread of COVID-19 if we continue to listen to the advice of our health officials. We must continue to work together and practice social distancing, wear masks, wash our hands and limit our travel.
I want to thank you for your sacrifices and discipline. I know Prince Georgians have worked very hard and have had to make difficult decisions in order to save lives. I want to assure you that vaccinations are coming and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We will get through this together.
Yours in service,
Prince George’s County Executive