BALTIMORE — The U.K variant of COVID-19 is increasing the sense of urgency for states to distribute the vaccine quickly.
On Tuesday, Governor Larry Hogan confirmed the first two cases of the new variant in Maryland--an Anne Arundel county couple who recently traveled abroad.
“The new UK variant does provide us with some need to start moving faster," said Dr. Esti Schabelman, who is the chief medical officer at Sinai Hospital.
After reports of a slower than expected vaccine rollout, the CDC is recommending states expand vaccine eligibility to seniors 65 and older, while also telling states not to wait for the completion of the first phase to move on to the next.
It’s a change that the federal government is hoping will speed up the vaccination process.
Dr. Schabelman said he believes the recommendations are a good idea, but there are some risks.
“There’s benefits to sort of emptying the cupboard and giving as many vaccines as you can and then relying on the supply chain to refill that cupboard for the second dose," he said. But, there’s a risk doing that which is if that cupboard is bare you are going to leave people partially protected.”
The risk Dr.Schabelman is referring to is what Governor Larry Hogan is also concerned about.
During a news conference Tuesday, the governor said if the state expanded the guidelines, it would put 1.5 million Marylanders in the first priority group. But he said the state only has 300,000 doses.
“I don’t want to have vaccines laying around, but I also don’t want to run out and not get the second doses," he said.
The governor did not commit to making any changes to the state's distribution plan during the press conference.
Dr. Schabelman said the federal government believes states won't run out of their supply as more vaccines become available.
He added if the CDC is asking states to expand guidelines, it needs to provide more resources.
"Distributing it will be our most difficult part," said Dr.Schabelman. "Essentially, we can’t just rely a few organizations of the state to vaccinate a state with millions of people in it."
Governor Hogan will update the state on the vaccination plan during a news conference on Thursday.