ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Marylanders 65 and over living in congregate care facilities, including nursing homes, are eligible for COVID-19 booster shots effective immediately.

Gov. Larry Hogan announced the expanded eligibility at a press conference Capital News Service reporters attended Wednesday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently authorizes an additional dose of the coronavirus vaccine for people who are immunocompromised.

Hogan called the addition of people over 65 in congregate care a broadening of the definition of “immunocompromised.”

At the Wednesday COVID-19 update, Hogan also announced pharmacies and other vaccine providers should give people who are immunocompromised the second dose without the need for a prescription.

The governor says this is in line with CDC guidance and is meant to reduce confusion for providers.

The state will also begin a community COVID-19 vaccination project in areas with low vaccination rates, Hogan said Wednesday.

The project is expected to cost $3 million and will include canvassing to directly engage residents of the target areas, Hogan said.

Hogan said he would like better guidance from the federal government on the subject of booster shots.

“This is something we’re gonna be dealing with for a long time,” Hogan said.

With schools starting the academic year, Hogan said President Joe Biden’s administration has not been able to provide an estimate on when children ages 5-11 might be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

In a Tuesday press release, Hogan announced that 95% of Marylanders 65 and older have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose.

Last week, the governor said 80% of people 12 and older had received at least one vaccine dose.

In a “Meet the Press” interview Sunday, Hogan contrasted Maryland’s COVID numbers to those of Kentucky, where cases have climbed to a new peak in recent weeks.

“We’re very proud of the fact that we’re one of the most vaccinated states in the country,” Hogan said in the Sunday interview.

He went on to say on Sunday that Maryland is still facing hospitalizations and deaths among unvaccinated people, including those who believe disinformation.

Hogan also said on the program that the state has unvaccinated residents in urban areas as well as Republican areas of the state.

Sixty-one percent of Maryland residents are fully vaccinated, which is higher than the national rate of 53%.

Despite progress on vaccinations, COVID continues to spread in Maryland.

The state’s COVID positivity rate Wednesday was 4.68 percent, according to the state health department.

Over 800 people were hospitalized with the virus Wednesday with over 200 intensive care unit beds in use, state data showed.

Nearly 9,900 people have died of COVID-19 in Maryland and over 505,000 have tested positive for the virus, according to state data.

This article was originally published on on Wednesday, September 8, 2021.

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