St. Mary's County ready for next phase of COVID vaccinations

Lauren Ervin, DNP, CNMI, a midwife with MedStar Medical Group Women’s Health at Leonardtown gets a band aid after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo: The County Times) Lauren Ervin, DNP, CNMI, a midwife with MedStar Medical Group Women’s Health at Leonardtown gets a band aid after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo: The County Times)

HOLLYWOOD, Md. (January 7, 2021)—By the end of this week, St. Mary's County should be ready to move into the next, broader phase of vaccinations against COVID-19, said County Health Officer Dr. Meena Brewster but the state has yet to issue the authorization to allow it.

The Commissioners of St. Mary's County came to a consensus that if the state would not move fast enough to allow counties to proceed with vaccinations, they would petition the state to allow for greater flexibility in doing so.

"We'd love to be able to move into phase 1B," Brewster told county commissioners at their Jan. 5 meeting in Leonardtown. "We'll be ready by the end of the week."

Brewster said that the health department has been aggressively vaccinating and quickly uses up the supply of vaccine as they get it; they are only notified of new vaccine shipments about two days before they are to receive them.

"It's a huge impact because at the local level there are a lot of mechanics that have to come together to launch the effort," Brewster said. "It's challenging to do that when you don't know how much vaccine you're going to get." Gov. Larry Hogan praised St.

Marys' along with Calvert counties this week for being among five counties that were distributing the vaccine the fastest in the state.

Hogan was critical though in his Jan. 5 press conference, though, of the pharmacy partnership of CVS and Walgreens for being slow in getting the vaccine to staff and residents at nursing homes.

The two pharmacies are tasked with inoculations at not only nursing homes but at assisted living facilities and homes for the developmentally disabled and others in certain congregant living arrangements.

Brewster said vaccines have already been distributed at St. Mary's Nursing Center and Chesapeake Shores was scheduled to get their allotment Jan. 6.

Charlotte Hall Veterans Home was waiting until Jan. 13 to get their inoculations.

Sharon Murphy, director at the veterans home, said Walgreens staff would come to the facility on the appointed day to administer the vaccine at an indoor clinic.

The vaccine efforts are continuing along with testing, Brewster said, in a time when health officials believe another virus surge is eminent.

"We appear to be heading into the post-holiday surge," she said, adding that the county's new case rate is more than 30 per 100,000 residents.

Shawn Davidson, Volunteer Emergency Medical Services Chief for St. Mary's County, was critical of the state for not allowing jurisdictions to proceed to the next phase if they were able.

"We're sitting on 2,500 doses of vaccine we're not allowed to give to people who want it," Davidson said.

Delaying vaccinations could be deadly, he said.

"It's going to cost us lives in St. Mary's County," Davidson said. "It's that simple."

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