By: Angelie Roche
The St. Mary’s County Health Department (SMCHD) recently announced that it is offering pre-registration for COVID-19 booster shots when they become available to the general public. As of Sept. 9, immunocompromised persons and those over the age of 65 residing in assisted living communities may currently receive the shot. According to the Baltimore Sun, Maryland is the only state that has expanded booster shot availability to elderly people; Governor Larry Hogan hopes that, in the near future, more Maryland residents will be able to receive the booster as well.
When vaccines first became available to the general public in April, many thought that the end of the pandemic was in sight. However, vaccine hesitancy has caused progress to slow, especially in rural areas and for college-aged Americans. According to the CDC, only 49% of US adults ages 18-24 are vaccinated, a number which is strikingly low in comparison to the 84% of 65+ year-olds who are. Experts surmise that this hesitancy comes from younger peoples’ perception that the risk of the vaccine being harmful outweighs their risk of becoming ill with the coronavirus.
Still, research on the vaccine has repeatedly pointed to its efficiency: the CDC reports that less than 1% of people have had severe reactions to the vaccine, whereas 21% of young adults who contracted COVID-19 have been put in intensive care, and almost 3% have died. So, while Maryland officials are pushing for booster shots among vaccinated people, they are also working hard to push vaccination on populations who have expressed hesitancy. “The vaccines are free, safe, [and] they work,” said Hogan in August.
In St. Mary’s County, vaccination rates are lower than in the rest of Maryland. Currently, only 57.8% of residents are vaccinated, and the Delta Variant is not backing down— as of Sept. 12, 18.8% of COVID tests administered by the SMCHD came back positive— a rate that exceeds that of the outbreak last winter (before vaccines were available to the public). 74% of these cases are among unvaccinated people; however, a growing number of vaccinated people are coming down with the Delta variant as well, albeit with milder symptoms. The CDC recommends booster shots for those who received their last vaccine eight months ago, with the aim of strengthening individuals’ immunity against the virus.
If you have already received your vaccine and are waiting to be eligible for a booster shot, there are a number of things you can still do to ensure the safety of yourself and those around you. Most importantly, encourage those who express hesitancy to get their vaccine as soon as possible. Then, encourage pre-registration for those doses that are not yet available. As the CDC works on testing vaccine efficiency in children, the SMCHD has a pre-registration list for those ages 5-11, should the vaccine become available to them in the future. Finally, you may pre-register for a third booster shot yourself on the SMCHD website: smchd.org/covid-19-vaccine.