Baltimore, MD- The state’s primary care physicians are poised to take a more active role in administering coronavirus vaccines following a Friday morning announcement by the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) that it has expanded a critical program aimed at vaccinating the state’s most hard-to-reach residents.

MDH’s Primary Care COVID-19 Vaccination Program has grown over the past couple of weeks to include 221 participants from more than 70 primary practices across the state. The expansion of the program comes via MDH’s Maryland Primary Care Program (MDPCP). That program includes more than 2,150 medical professionals from more than 560 primary practices across Maryland.

Health Secretary Dennis Schrader touted news of the vaccination program’s expansion on Friday.

“Our Primary Care COVID-19 Vaccination Program is critical to ensuring that no Marylander is left behind when it comes to vaccinations,” Schrader said in a statement. “Expanding it will enable us to provide more vaccines to family practices throughout the state and directly reach people who we know haven’t been vaccinated yet.”

So did MDPCP Executive Director Dr. Howard Haft.

“From pivoting to telehealth to provide care for patients, to keeping high-risk patients out of the hospital by making referrals for monoclonal antibody treatment, to now administering the vaccine, our primary care providers have been at the center of care throughout this pandemic,” Haft said in a statement. “They are positioned to help directly connect with those who need the vaccine-especially Marylanders who may be harder to reach, with more complex heath care needs.”

There are 447,401 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland as of Friday morning, according to the Department of Health, and 8,555 people in Maryland have died from the virus. The state’s positivity rate is at 3.72%, which is within CDC recommended guidelines for containment. Maryland has conducted nearly 9.7 million COVID-19 tests.

Maryland’s health care providers have administered more than 4.6 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine. That includes 2,634,389 (43.575%) first doses and 1,798,247 (29.744%) second doses. Nearly 2 million people in Maryland are fully vaccinated, which is about a third of the state’s total population. 

This article originally appeared on on Friday, April 30, 2021.

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