Here's how Maryland will distribute a coronavirus vaccine when it's available
Maryland health officials are preparing for a two-phase COVID-19 vaccination process that will prioritize the state's most vulnerable residents until a vaccine becomes more widely available.
Though federal authorities have not yet approved a coronavirus vaccine, Maryland on Tuesday released a draft plan for mass vaccination that officials sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week.
The two-phase plan anticipates that only limited quantities of a coronavirus vaccine will be available until 2021. Very limited amounts of vaccine could be available as early as November, according to the draft plan.
Phase one will involve vaccinating healthcare personnel who care for COVID-19 patients, other essential workers, staff and residents at nursing homes and other people at the highest risk of developing complications from COVID-19.
A 'Herculean' effort:States finalize their COVID-19 vaccine distribution plans
The draft plan estimates that about 14 percent of Maryland residents, or about 850,000 people, will be eligible for vaccination during phase one.
The state will also launch Marylandvax.org, a website where Maryland residents will be able to pre-register to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and news updates on the vaccination program.
During phase two, the vaccine will become available to the general public. The beginning of phase two will be decided based on vaccine availability and the success of phase one.
The plan also outlines some of the logistical hurdles that a COVID-19 vaccine will bring.
Variations of the vaccine will likely need to be refrigerated, kept frozen or even stored at ultra-cold temperatures to stay effective. The CDC is working on storage and handling guidelines for the vaccine that will be distributed later, according to Maryland's draft plan.
The vaccine is also expected to require two doses several weeks apart, which means Marylanders will need to receive reminders about getting their second dose. And both doses must be the same product because different vaccines will not be interchangeable.
Vaccine providers will be required to register and track vaccine administration through ImmuNet, Maryland's existing immunization database.
Information about Maryland's COVID-19 vaccination program will be made available through an online data dashboard, according to the plan.
Keep reading:Half of Marylanders say they wouldn't get COVID-19 vaccine, poll findsState officials will also have to contend with vaccine hesitancy. Polls show that a growing number of Americans have doubts about the vaccine, which is being produced and tested at unprecedented speed.
A recent Goucher College Poll found that less than half of Maryland residents would get an FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine if one were available today.
Maryland's draft plan acknowledges that vaccine hesitancy "will be a barrier to vaccination that will need to be addressed."
Implementing a mass vaccination plan will bring new problems and questions, said Dr. Cyrus Shahpar, director of the Prevent Epidemics Team at the nonprofit health initiative Resolve to Save Lives, in a previous interview.
For example, he said, how should health officials identify people who are at high risk from COVID-19 and get doses of a vaccine to them?
"These are some new challenges in a setting where initially you're going to have limited numbers of vaccines," he said.
Earlier coverage:Maryland starts preparing for a COVID-19 vaccine
States should also be pushing for a safe and thorough vaccine approval process at the federal level to gain public trust, Shahpar said.
"Where we have issues with trust, you get one chance, and if you don't do it the right way, it can have ongoing negative impacts," he said.
Madeleine O'Neill covers the Maryland State House for the USA Today Network. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @maddioneill.