January 22, 2021
Dear Johns Hopkins University community,
Late this week, Governor Hogan’s administration confirmed to Maryland’s colleges and universities that some of our faculty and staff are included in his recent expansion of COVID vaccine eligibility to Phase 1B (on January 18) and 1C (on January 25). We are currently seeking additional clarity about how these eligibility rules apply in the higher ed context and which categories of Johns Hopkins affiliates are included in each phase. In the meantime we want to provide you with the information we have at this point about vaccine administration and to offer resources for learning more about the vaccine itself.
First and foremost, it is important to underscore that the vaccine is unfortunately in very short supply. Although the state has expanded eligibility for the vaccine, consistent with CDC guidance, the federal government is sending only a limited amount of vaccine to each state.
Here in Maryland, the state is receiving between 72,000 and 76,000 doses per week from the federal government, compared to a population of nearly 1 million people who will be eligible based on their age alone as of next week. Maryland hospitals received approximately 7,000 doses this week to support the expansion, of which Johns Hopkins Medicine received approximately 1,000 doses.
As Maryland’s Phase 1A (which includes health care workers and those directly supporting the clinical mission, per state guidelines) nears completion, JHM has turned its attention to administering the vaccine to others as they become eligible. To ensure that the vaccine is distributed on a principled basis, JHM has sought the counsel and advice of a committee on vaccines that has been at work for several months. Led by Gabe Kelen, chair of Emergency Medicine in the School of Medicine and director of the Johns Hopkins Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response (CEPAR), the committee is aided by experts in scarce resource allocation and includes experts in medicine, nursing, public health, and bioethics, to advise JHM on the discharge of its responsibilities in the next and future rounds of vaccine administration.
Below is a summary of current information about vaccine distribution and eligibility and our efforts to support all members of our community—at Johns Hopkins and across the city—as the vaccine rollout continues in Maryland and nationwide.
Maryland Phase 1A Vaccine Distribution
Federal distribution of COVID vaccines is made directly to each state, with further distribution dependent on state guidelines, resulting in different protocols for Johns Hopkins affiliates located in different states and localities.
Until this week, Maryland limited vaccine distribution to those who are involved in maintaining the capacity of the health care system statewide. Under that direction, JHM was permitted to vaccinate health care workers who deliver patient care or support mission-critical operations. Those vaccinations have been ongoing since December, and approximately 23,000 JHM affiliates in Maryland have received at least their first dose.
As some of you may have experienced, in this initial phase there were some challenges in differentiating among those who are eligible on the basis of their connection to our patients and health care mission, particularly with respect to our health-related faculty and trainees. JHM and the Information Technology team have been working together to refine the system and appreciate our community’s patience as they do so.
Maryland’s Phase 1B and 1C Vaccine Distribution
As of January 18, based upon Governor Hogan’s most recent announcement, JHM has been authorized in its role as a health care provider to vaccinate eligible members of the public as well as eligible JHM patients and JHU affiliates under Phase 1B of the state’s plan, and next week that authority expands to include Phase 1C.
Phase 1B includes those who are age 75 and older, as well as teachers and school staff, childcare providers, and residents of assisted living and other congregate living facilities. Starting January 25, vaccine eligibility at JHM and across the state will further expand to Phase 1C, including all those age 65 and over, as well as many frontline service workers.
JHM has established vaccination clinics at five locations throughout the state for this purpose, and is using a randomized approach for the distribution of its limited vaccine supply within eligible groups at these sites. As noted above, this approach may evolve based on the advice of the vaccine committee, particularly as needed to help address equity and other important considerations (e.g., risk of exposure). At present, random selection of eligible persons who have requested the vaccine is performed daily, and JHM is using multiple means to contact those who are selected to schedule appointments, including MyChart, email, text messages, and phone calls.
Vaccination for JHU Faculty and Staff
We have received confirmation this week from the Maryland Higher Education Commission and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene that higher education personnel are included in phases 1B and 1C. In general, the state’s guidance indicates that only those who are teaching in person or working on campus in essential roles are included in 1B and 1C. However, we do not yet know whether this applies to all those who are in-person, nor whether doses of vaccine will be made available by the state for this group. As soon as we have this information, we will provide it to you.
Then, JHU employees who are eligible in Phase 1B and 1C will receive invitations to sign up through the MyChart system, albeit subject to the same constraints of the very limited vaccine supply described above. Information on how to register for a MyChart account is available here, and a new call center will soon be available for those who do not have a MyChart account or ability to access or use digital devices.
The state is also distributing the vaccine for the general public through other hospitals, municipal health departments, and pharmacies. Importantly, eligible JHU employees are not required to be vaccinated through JHM and should pursue vaccination through other available programs as well.
Johns Hopkins and the Community
As eligibility and distribution of vaccination expands, JHM is working to support and consult with the state and city governments. Among other efforts, JHM has established a partnership with the Baltimore City Public Schools to help speed the vaccination of K-12 teachers and staff as a critical priority for the children, families, and general economy of our region, and is pursuing a program focused on elder housing residents in the city as well.
We are all indebted to the many members of the Johns Hopkins community who are currently volunteering their time and skills to vaccine distribution at JHM and around the region. And in collaboration with our Schools of Nursing and Public Health, JHM and JHU are jointly exploring additional opportunities for even more of our students, staff, and faculty to be able to join in this extraordinary volunteer effort. More information about volunteer opportunities will be coming soon.
Learn About the Vaccine
Even as we await additional vaccine supply, one of the most important things we can do over the next several weeks and months is to educate ourselves and the broader community about the vaccine, so that everyone can make an informed decision for themselves and their loved ones.
We are working in close collaboration with our experts in public health communications, our diversity and inclusion professionals, and our staff affinity groups to develop a comprehensive vaccine education and outreach effort, including focus groups and listening sessions with the community, and opportunities to answer questions people may have.
In addition, we urge you to refer to the resources we have available now for learning more about the vaccine:
- Johns Hopkins Medicine videos about how the vaccine works, its development and safety, and the approval process
- Our recent vaccine town hall with Johns Hopkins University and Medicine experts
Best practices for health and safety on our campuses
Finally, regardless of your vaccine status, it remains vitally important that you continue to be diligent in following best practices for COVID safety—wear a mask, maintain physical distance from others, wash your hands frequently, avoid large gatherings, and monitor yourself for symptoms.
To help prevent the spread of COVID within our community, Johns Hopkins is providing asymptomatic COVID testing for students, faculty and staff, and we urge and remind all those who are on campus to participate.
Our plans for a limited expansion of in-person activity during the spring semester do not rely on the vaccination of our students, faculty, and staff. Yet we know the impact that vaccination will have—both immediately and long term—on the health and safety of our communities. We, like you, remain hopeful that the pace at which the COVID vaccine is administered to all populations will continue to accelerate and that we will be able to move toward greater normalcy in our operations and lives.
Please check for regular updates at covidinfo.jhu.edu.
Stay safe and be well,
Interim SVP Finance and Administration