COVID vaccination clinic

Caroline County Health Department nurse Heather Grove prepares the Moderna COVID vaccine.

DENTON — Caroline’s COVID-19 response team worked through the weekend, Health Officer Laura Patrick told the county commissioners Tuesday morning, and 25.7% of county residents have been fully vaccinated. The county’s COVID-19 positivity rate is up to 7.25% with 39 new positives in the last 10 days.

Patrick said she was happy to report Caroline had no deaths from COVID-19 in the past two weeks, holding steady at 24. Fourteen of those came from the first three months of this year. Two local residents remain hospitalized, but they are currently stable and due to be released soon, she said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Mobile Vaccine Unit rolled into Caroline County last week and was up and running by Saturday. Caroline and Harford counties are the first locations in the nation to get the FEMA vans, said Emergency Services Director Anna Sierra. U.S. Department of Agriculture and Forestry personnel are mostly staffing the unit. They arrived Thursday to train and had a soft opening Saturday, administering 100 doses of vaccine, and Sunday, 50 doses, both days well below capacity, but helpful in determining what challenges needed to be worked out, she added.

Sierra said the FEMA team has been “absolutely great” to work with, willing to help however they can and she’s impressed with their professionalism.

In the case of Caroline, the MVU is not so “mobile,” she added.

“Technically it is, but it’s a large operation, and so we thought it best to find a space that met its needs and pretty much plop it for the week,” Sierra said. The county already has small, mobile outreach teams going to homebound residents and volunteers willing and able to pick up people who just need a ride to the vaccination site.

“We felt it better to have a stable, single location for that mobile vaccination unit,” Sierra said. So, the unit is located at the Ridgely Tech Park for the week.

The FEMA van is allocated 250 doses of Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine a day and is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“They are taking walkups,” Sierra said, but cautioned there’s no way for someone to know if vaccine will be available without an appointment. The best way to get signed up is to fill out the online screening tool or call the COVID-19 Call Center, 410-479-5880, then residents will be contacted about open slots.

The health department continued to offer COVID-19 testing from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays at the HAPS building, Patrick said. Most of those currently seeking testing are symptomatic or have a family member who is symptomatic, she said in response to a commissioner’s question.

This marks the first week the health department is receiving Johnson and Johnson vaccine (after the initial 100 doses), which doesn’t require a second dose, and a large clinic is planned at the 4-H Park on Thursday to administer that; then Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the health department team will be administering Moderna vaccine at that location, Patrick said.

Sara Visintainer, the commissioners’ chief of staff, said a big challenge is getting all the slots filled given the system’s scheduling limitations. They might send out a link for Tuesday, but Tuesday doesn’t work for someone, so then they have to wait for a link for another day. She echoed Sierra is advising the best way to be an appointment is to fill out the screening tool on the county website.

With Phase 3 opening, the county is starting to collect information on 16 and 17 year olds who want to be vaccinated, and she is working with the hospital in Easton to coordinate vaccines for local at-risk students. Only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for 16 and 17 year olds.

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