Meritus Health CEO enhances experience for youngest eligible patients at COVID vaccine clinic

HAGERSTOWN, Md. – Meritus Health, an independent hospital and health system operating in Western Maryland, was the first in the region to offer eligible patients, 6 months through 4 years old, COVID vaccinations, with an inaugural dedicated clinic this week.

“We know that some parents have been eagerly awaiting authorization from the FDA and CDC, and our teams worked as quickly as they could to produce a safe and efficient clinic to support the vaccination needs of this age group in our community,” explained Maulik Joshi, Dr.PH., president and CEO, Meritus Health.

Joshi, who holds a doctorate in public health, has been at the forefront of supporting the health needs of Washington County and surrounding areas throughout the pandemic. Meritus Health has led the way with vaccinations in the region, monoclonal antibody treatments, and earned accolades from the governor of Maryland for its agile response to the dynamic needs of the COVID pandemic.

This week, Joshi joined his teams on the frontlines, dressed as Elmo. He shared smiles and held tiny hands as the children received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

“Public health is about connections,” he explained. “This pandemic has been challenging and difficult. If we can create some positive experiences that’s what matters; Helping these children smile and relax matters. We are creating pathways and conversations with parents about making educated choices through this pandemic. It is important to spend time with our community members so we can better serve them.”

The first patient in this age group to receive a vaccine at the Meritus Health clinic was Noble Smith, the 10-month-old son of Brittany and Kevin Smith.

“This is an emotional moment,” Brittany Smith said as she held back tears.

She shared her gratitude with Elmo, explaining that COVID has been a very emotional experience for her family. Her own father passed away from COVID the same week she found out she was pregnant with Noble. “We’ve been waiting for this day since he was born,” she said, of her son being safely vaccinated against the virus.

“These stories are why our teams work so hard to offer these types of clinics,” Joshi said. “We continue to be here with our community as their partner, and if that means dressing as a character to help a patient feel comfortable, that is what we will do.”