Frequently Asked Questions about the COVID-19 Vaccine

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How can I keep updated on everything happening with vaccinations?

Sign up for email/text updates. We use these updates, as well as our website, local media outlets, and other communication channels to provide the latest information and answer questions related to COVID-19 vaccinations.

Preregistration and Appointments

How do I find out what Priority Group I am in?

See the priority group details. The priority groups were designed to determine vaccine distribution based on the relative risk of exposure or the chance of developing serious illness if someone gets COVID-19.

The State has reiterated that it is the County’s responsibility is to finish the 1A group, since the people in that group protect our health and safety and their jobs make them vulnerable to exposure. We cannot afford for them to get sick. After the people in Group 1A, the next priority group of 1B includes people who are 75 and older. The State expects the group of residents 75 and older to be our County priority until we have completed that group. At the rate that the County Department of Health and Human Services has been allocated vaccines, that will be a while. 

What do I do if I do not have access to a computer?

If you are eligible to preregister and do not have computer access, ask a family member or friend to help you complete the online form. You can also call the Preregistration Helpline for assistance at 240-777-2982. Staff are available to callers in English and Spanish. The Helpline is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. This line is for preregistration only.

If you have general questions about vaccinations and COVID-19, call 240-777-1755.

If you do not have an email address or a phone that can receive text messages, we will call you when it is your turn to make an appointment.

I am over the age of 65. Am I eligible for the vaccine now?

Adults age 65 to 74 are in Priority Group 1C. You may preregister.

I understand that the County currently does not have enough vaccine for my Priority Group. Can I still preregister?

Yes, you may preregister when your priority group is eligible. You will not have an appointment yet. When you preregister, we will contact you when we have doses for you.

We schedule appointments as we receive vaccine doses from the Maryland Department of Health.

How do I find a COVID-19 vaccination site?

All vaccinations we provide through the County’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) clinics are by appointment only. When we contact you for your appointment, we will tell you the locations we have available for those days.

In addition to the clinics operated by DHHS, hospitals and several community partners have COVID-19 vaccines available to the public. Use the “Find a Vaccination Site” search at covidvax.maryland.gov. These clinics follow the State guidelines, and not the rules issued by the County. Therefore, they may be vaccinating priority groups that the County-operated clinics are not.

Vaccine supply continues to be limited at all locations in Montgomery County.

Will I have to wait until people in the Priority Groups ahead of mine receive their vaccination before I can make an appointment?

We continue to vaccinate people in earlier Priority Groups at the same time as we begin to vaccinate new groups. Our appointments depend on vaccine deliveries from the Maryland Department of Health. Our progress through the groups depends on the vaccine deliveries we get from the Maryland Department of Health.

Why is it so difficult to get a vaccine appointment now?

Demand for vaccinations currently outpaces the available supply. When the State of Maryland receives vaccine doses from the Federal government, it distributes some to Montgomery County’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and other doses to health departments across Maryland. In Montgomery County alone, more than 200,000 people are currently eligible for a vaccine. DHHS has been receiving an average of 6,000 doses weekly.

In addition, vaccines are being distributed to hospitals, and other health care systems and community partners. Including the vaccine doses distributed to those locations and through the DHHS, the maximum vaccines available each week are about 18,000 to 20,000 for the 200,000 people currently eligible. Eventually, private physicians and retailers will receive vaccine doses, but that has not happened yet. See more information on the Maryland Department of Health’s COVID-19 website.

Why did my neighbor get an appointment from her doctor?

Some doctors are connected to hospitals that have received vaccines. In some cases, those health systems have opened up their clinics for their eligible prior patients.

Are there vaccine appointments available specifically for Veterans?

Yes, VA medical centers are vaccinating Veterans enrolled in VA Healthcare.

What about teachers?  When and how can they get vaccinated?

To help support some in-person instruction this spring, our hospital partners will offer vaccines to certain education staff as identified by their school administrators. Available doses will be limited.

What happens after I preregister?

Preregistration does NOT mean you have an appointment.

We will contact you when we have vaccine available at Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services clinics, and it is your turn.

You will receive an invitation to make an appointment by phone call or email directly from the County’s Department of Health and Human Services. Email invitations will come from c19vaccination@montgomerycountymd.gov. Your appointment link will be just for you. Do not share it with other people.

Once I preregister, how soon will I get the information for a vaccination appointment?

It could be weeks or longer before you get an appointment. The demand for vaccine is much greater than the current supply. The shortage is affecting communities across the United States. Many more people need and want the vaccine than there are doses available. While everyone in Priority Groups 1A, 1B, and 1C is eligible to preregister, vaccine supply to our Department of Health and Human Services has not significantly increased. We are ready to vaccinate more residents. We do not have enough vaccine doses to do that right now.

When will the next priority groups be vaccinated?

Progress through the priority groups depends entirely on how much vaccine we receive from the Maryland Department of Health and when we receive it. We currently have many more people eligible for vaccination than our vaccine supply allows. We cannot estimate how quickly we move through the priority groups because the number of doses we receive weekly is not consistent. Vaccines will not be widely available until later in 2021. Eventually everyone who wants a vaccine will be able to receive one. It is expected that private doctors and some retailers will eventually be able to order vaccine directly and assist in vaccinating community residents but there is no current timeline as to when that will happen.

Why are clinics operated by the County’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) not following the same priority groups as the State?

Since supplies of vaccines are extremely limited at this time, the State of Maryland has given local counties the flexibility to decide how to move through the priority groups to make vaccines available to the most vulnerable populations in their respective communities.

At the end of January 2021, clinics operated by our County DHHS began vaccinating residents in Priority Group 1B, Tier 1 (residents 75 years and older), while continuing to vaccinate those remaining in Priority Group 1A (frontline health care workers, first responders and public safety). There are approximately 30,000 to 40,000 people in Priority Group 1A and more than 70,000 people in Priority Group 1B, Tier 1. Since vaccine distribution began, Montgomery County has received a total of approximately 39,000 doses for the DHHS-sponsored vaccine clinics.

What if my friends send me a link from the County?

Do not use it. There has been a lot of confusion and frustration with people receiving forwarded links that allowed them to register for an appointment when they were not yet eligible. The State is using an existing vaccination appointment system that has worked well for flu vaccines, which are plentiful and easy to distribute. The system was not designed for this high-demand, low-supply vaccine. It was also not designed to accommodate prioritization of the order in which people get the vaccines.

The State is working with County staff to address this. They have already made some improvements and are working on more. This is not just a Montgomery County problem: scheduling overload is burdening all of the counties in Maryland.

If people make appointments from a forwarded link, their appointment will be cancelled. That leads to confusion and frustration.

Do not forward appointment links. Do not use a link that was forwarded to you.

Why do our hospitals sometimes get more vaccines than the County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)?

It is likely because of the type of vaccine.

The health care system gets the Pfizer vaccines, which must be stored at extremely cold temperatures of between 112 and 76 degrees below freezing. The County does not have storage capability for those vaccines and was advised at the beginning of the vaccine distribution not to purchase storage for those vaccines.

The County DHHS receives Moderna vaccines that are easier to store.

This difference in storage temperatures impacts where the doses are sent and who distributes them.

What about second doses?

Both types of vaccines currently available require a second dose. Even if supply increases, many of those doses will have to be used as second doses.

What is next?

Please be patient. The lack of supply is a problem in the State, in the country and around the world. We are hopeful that it will improve in the coming weeks and months. We are doing our part to get the vaccines to you as fast as possible.

How many doses come to Montgomery County each week?

The State currently distributes about 18,000 to 20,000 doses to the County each week. That is the total for all locations giving out vaccines, which include hospitals, health services, private pharmacies and the County-organized clinics.

How many doses come to Maryland each week?

About 70,000 doses are currently sent to Maryland each week. Those doses are divided among the 23 counties and the City of Baltimore. By State direction, more than 1.5 million people are currently eligible for these doses.

About the COVID-19 Vaccine

How does the vaccine work?

The COVID-19 vaccines we will receive are mRNA vaccines. Unlike many vaccines that put a weakened or inactivated germ into our bodies to trigger an immune response, mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein or a piece of a protein that triggers an immune response. When the vaccine triggers that immune response, our bodies produce antibodies which then protect us from getting infected if we are exposed to the real virus.

For most COVID-19 vaccines, two doses of the vaccine will be required. An online service called PrepMod will be used to schedule appointments and send reminders to people when their second vaccination doses are due.

Additional resources

Should everyone get a COVID-19 vaccination?

Yes. COVID-19 varies widely in how it affects those infected, from mild headaches to severe disease and even death. Getting vaccinated will protect you, and will also help protect people around you who may be more vulnerable to severe illness from COVID-19. Although getting COVID-19 may offer some natural immunity, we don’t yet know how long that protection will last.

The County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is prepared to respond to anaphylaxis/severe allergic reactions after the COVID-19 vaccination and is pre-screening individuals to determine if there are any contraindications or precautions.

When will children get the vaccine?

No currently-available vaccines are approved for persons under age 16. Clinical trials are in progress for this age group.

How much will the COVID-19 vaccine cost?

There will be no cost for the COVID-19 vaccine at County-sponsored clinics. Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance will cover the cost of the vaccine. Montgomery County will cover the cost for anyone who is uninsured.

More information on vaccination options provided through the County and other partners will be shared broadly when we enter the next phases of distribution.

Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?

The COVID-19 vaccines cannot infect you with COVID-19 disease. The vaccines that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use are mRNA vaccines, which do not use the live virus that causes COVID-19.

The COVID-19 mRNA vaccines give instructions for our cells to make a harmless piece of what is called the “spike protein.” The spike protein is found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. Our immune systems recognize that the protein doesn’t belong there and begin building an immune response and making antibodies, like what would happen in a natural infection against COVID-19.

How do we know the COVID-19 vaccine is safe?

The COVID-19 vaccines are being held to the same rigorous safety and effectiveness standards as all other types of vaccines in the United States. Because of the pandemic, testing and production of the vaccine have happened simultaneously, but none of the safety steps were skipped.

Vaccines are only approved if they pass the rigorous testing and efficacy standards set by the FDA. The only COVID-19 vaccines the FDA will make available for use in the United States (by approval or emergency use authorization) are those that meet these standards.

Additional resources

Will the vaccine end the pandemic?

News about the development of a vaccine that is safe and effective at preventing COVID-19 is a major breakthrough in battling the pandemic. However, the vaccine alone won’t end the pandemic immediately.

Because production and distribution of the vaccine will take time, we will continue living with COVID-19 well into 2021.

Reasonable safety precautions like wearing a mask, physical distancing, vigilant hand washing, and minimizing large gatherings will still be essential as we wait for widespread vaccination to become available.

Where can I learn more about Maryland’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan?

For detailed answers to questions about Maryland’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan, see the COVIDLink website’s Frequently Asked Questions.

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