In response to the need for large-scale community COVID-19 vaccinations, the Howard County Health Department is working with Howard County Government, partner agencies, volunteers and students to expand its vaccination workforce. Ongoing staff recruitment, hiring and training efforts will ensure the County can meet capacity needs as significant vaccination efforts begin.
The Health Department estimates there are up to 15,000 healthcare workers and first responders included in Phase 1A. It is estimated that there are more than 18,000 adults ages 75 and older living in Howard County. In total, it is estimated that there are more than 95,000 people included in Phases 1A, 1B and 1C in Howard County that will be eligible to receive vaccination in the coming weeks. In total there are more than 250,000 Howard County residents over the age of 16 who are eligible to receive the vaccine. The FDA has authorized the Pfizer vaccine for adults 16 and older, and the Moderna vaccine for adults 18 or older. In order to supply this large population safely and efficiently with COVID-19 vaccine, the Health Department will be expanding days of the week, hours of operation and locations across the County where vaccinations will be provided. Efforts have also been necessary to increase staffing for these new vaccination responsibilities. These efforts include:
-Ongoing interviews to hire more than 35 additional Health Department staff. These new hires will fill the critical roles of nurse vaccinators, logistics and supply staff, administrative and other support positions.
-Assistance from Howard County Public School System nurses. As of mid-December, more than 45 HCPSS school health nurses have expressed an interest to volunteer. Training for these staff will begin January 22.
-Working with Howard County Government leadership to deploy employees to help support current staffing needs.
-Coordinating with more than 110 Howard County residents who have registered in the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) to assist in the COVID-19 vaccination effort, serving in clinical and non-clinical roles. MRC is a state-wide public health volunteer program. The Health Department has been in communication with these volunteers to schedule trainings and begin coordinating availability for upcoming vaccination clinics.
-Utilizing academic partners from the Howard Community College Nursing and Emergency Medical Services programs and from the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy who have have expressed interested in assisting and utilizing COVID-19 vaccination clinics as a valuable learning experience for up-and-coming healthcare professionals. Memorandums of Understanding have been established to allow this partnership.
“Thank you to all the incredible students, employees, and volunteers who have stepped up and answered the call to support our vaccination efforts,” said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball. “This is a massive effort to vaccinate our entire community, and we could not do it without the support of these volunteers.”
“We are fortunate to have such a large and enthusiastic group of newly-recruited public health heroes in Howard County who have volunteered to help us vaccinate our community,” said Dr. Maura Rossman, Howard County Health Officer. “Recruiting additional clinical and non-clinical staff and volunteers to add to our vaccination workforce has been a significant effort, but extremely important as we all strive for a return to normal.”
As Howard County begins to prioritize residents age 75 and older in vaccination Phase 1B on January 25, plans to expand to additional facilities around the County and increase vaccination capacity are ongoing. At its maximum capacity, the Health Department estimates it can provide more than 18,000 vaccinations per week if able to operate three large, concurrent clinics five or six days a week. In order to fully staff three concurrent clinics at locations throughout the County, between 100 and 140 staff would be required each day for clinics ranging from eight to 11 hours.
The Health Department has also developed a robust training program to quickly integrate this new and diverse workforce into these clinical and non-clinical roles. A trainer has been hired to refine and deliver this program to ensure new staff are comfortable, confident and competent when needed for expanded clinic operations. Being prepared to effectively vaccinate both priority populations and the general public requires a shared partnership across the community.
For more information about ongoing COVID-19 vaccination efforts in Howard County, visit https://bit.ly/HoCOVIDVaccine. Additional resources for residents in need, including food, rent, and other assistance, can be found online at StayCOVIDSafe.howardcountymd.gov.