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Boosters Available For Seniors In MD Congregate Facilities

Gov. Larry Hogan at a Wednesday COVID-19 update. Credit: Governor Larry Hogan Livestream
Gov. Larry Hogan at a Wednesday COVID-19 update. Credit: Governor Larry Hogan Livestream

The Maryland Department of Health has ordered that booster shots be made available immediately for all Marylanders 65 and living in congregate care facilities.

Those facilities include all nursing homes, assisted living facilities, residential drug treatment centers and group homes for people with developmental disabilities.

Gov. Larry Hogan announced the order Wednesday afternoon, saying that states have been operating without clear guidance from the federal government on administering booster shots for several weeks.

“The limited guidance we have received has been confusing and contradictory, and it is still unclear when and how more people will become eligible,” Hogan said.

He also called on the Biden administration to address plans for distributing boosters for the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which more than 280,000 Marylanders have received.

Last month, the state health department launched an antibody testing program to determine immunity levels among vaccinated nursing home residents, using a sample of 500 residents across the state.

Hogan said data from that program shows that out of those 500 residents, more than 60% have demonstrated some form of waning immunity, and that one out of three are “particularly vulnerable.”

“All the evidence makes it abundantly clear that we cannot afford to delay taking decisive action to protect our most vulnerable citizens,” the governor said.

The state health department also is instructing all vaccine providers and pharmacies to give booster shots to anyone who considers themselves immunocompromised.

Hogan said Marylanders do not need a prescription or doctor’s order proving that they are immunocompromised. They may be asked to fill out a simple form.

“But no one in this category should be turned away from receiving a booster,” he said.

The governor also announced the launch of the Community COVID-19 Vaccination Project, a $3 million community-based canvassing effort to directly engage Marylanders living in areas with low vaccination rates.

Sarah Y. Kim is WYPR’s health and housing reporter. Kim is WYPR's Report for America corps member, and Anthony Brandon Fellow. Kim joined WYPR as a 2020-2021 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. Now in her second year as an RFA corps member, Kim is based in Baltimore City.