Covid-19 Vaccines distributed to Montgomery County First Responders, Staff and Nursing Homes

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During Phase 1A of the COVID-19 vaccine plan, Montgomery County health care workers were offered the first round of treatment Dec. 22 through Jan. 15. On Jan. 18, the county entered Phase 1B, broadening the amount of people eligible for receiving the vaccine. 

Since the CDC approved the Moderna and ​​Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, Montgomery County has distributed around 20,000 vaccines to hospitals in the area. 

Though the vaccine was initially limited to residents 75 years and older in Phase 1A, some were unsure whether or not they would receive the shot. During the earliest rounds of vaccine distribution, some healthcare workers opted-out of taking the vaccine.  

 “Many are hesitant to take the vaccine because they don’t know the long term effects… In my hospital, only 60% of my staff took the vaccine,” Dr. Sharda Katyal M.D. at Walter Reed Hospital said. 

Nonetheless, there are still many healthcare workers who are in favor of the vaccine and support getting vaccinated as soon as possible. 

“I definitely recommend getting the vaccine to protect yourself,” nurse at ENT and Allergy Specialists of Shady Grove Debby Grass said. 

Now in Phase 1B, education workers are eligible for the vaccine. However, the state of Maryland will provide 50,000 doses for the elderly population, heading towards nursing homes and facilities. 

“I think we are going in the right direction in terms of availability of the vaccine,” senior Sammy Hung said. 

The two COVID-19 vaccines available, Moderna and ​​Pfizer-BioNTech, are stored differently. The ​​Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine needs to be stored in the freezer, while the Moderna vaccine can be refrigerated without the risk of deactivating. Currently, hospital staff and workers do not get to choose which vaccine they receive. 

The two also differ in age requirements necessary to receive a dose. In order to acquire the Moderna vaccine, individuals must be 18 years or older, while the Pfizer vaccine only requires patients to be older than 16. Due to the lack of research on the effects of the COVID-19 vaccine, there has yet to be a vaccine authorized for children under the age of 16. 

Common side effects of both the Modern and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines include injection site pain, fatigue, headaches, muscle pain, chills, fever and joint pain.

 “I didn’t have any side effects except for fatigue which occured the next day,” Grass said. 

A third vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca, is also currently seeking approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Unlike the ​​Pfizer and Moderna options, the AstraZeneca vaccine is made from a weakened version of the common cold, which has been modified to look more like the coronavirus. Currently, this vaccine is eligible in the United Kingdom and some European countries. 

Maryland will enter Phase 1C Jan. 25, allowing individuals 65-74 and other essential workers—such as those in the postal service—to receive the vaccine. As of now, Montgomery County is still in the process of vaccinating eligible residents in Phase 1B.

“We aren’t able to know how much the vaccine has helped, but I truly believe better days are ahead,” Hung said.