Baltimore News

Addressing Baltimore Metropolis’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution, sign-up struggles


Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Several issues are continuing to plague Maryland’s coronavirus vaccine distribution.

One question persists amid the issues: How to make the limited supply of vaccine reach those most at-risk, and how to make it easier for people to sign up?

– Maryland online vaccination site locator

-Vaccine Data Dashboard

-Maryland vaccination plan FAQs

“I can’t see that this is helping anybody. It just seems like a bunch of information that’s clogging the system,” Peggy Kushner said.

Kushner spends up to 45 minutes a day trying to maneuver Maryland’s system for getting a coronavirus vaccine for two older relatives. Like many others, it requires multiple attempts at sign up.

“So, the state has one, the county has one, Giant has one and everybody I know that is dispensing vaccines has these forms of interest. The convention center has one, Six Flags has another,” Kushner said.

Legislators say the lack of a single signup system remains a frequent complaint from constituents. But state health officials say they have no plans to implement one, and at a hearing Monday night, Dennis Schrader, the acting secretary of health, said people should sign up everywhere.

“We are not trying to discourage people from signing up on multiple waiting lists, but once they get an appointment, we’d like to encourage them to cancel the other waiting lists they have put themselves on,” Schrader said.

In Baltimore, a City Council committee is pushing for more details on the city’s vaccine rollout. The city has vaccinated about 8% of the population — below the state average.

“What I would like to see, what we are going to request is the plan, but I also want to make sure the plan is being followed. It kind of seems they are fighting different fires as they come up as opposed to sticking with what the date and science is saying and delivering on that,” City Councilman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer said.

Listen for my live reports from @BaltCityHall on @wbalradio #WBAL this morning with @C4Show & @BryanNehman as @CouncilmanYitzy is calling what’s going-on right now with vaccinations in the city as a “botched rollout”. Hear what both he and the city health commissioner are saying

— Scott Wykoff (@ScottWykoffWBAL) February 10, 2021

Schleifer started the oversight meeting by talking about the hundreds of people who he said were turned away from first-dose appointments at Baltimore City Community College last week.

“I’ve lost sleep over this botched rollout. I am sick to my stomach that I am part of a government entity that has treated human life in the way as I witnessed last week,” he said.

The Baltimore City Health Department has said that many of the canceled first-dose seekers shouldn’t have had access to the link to book the appointments in the first place, while also acknowledging issues with PrepMod, the state system used to schedule appointments.

“Will you help restore trust and have your team reschedule those appointments that were abruptly canceled?” Schleifer asked.

“Given the scarcity of the supply of vaccine, we aren’t able to guarantee an appointment at our vaccination pod,” City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa said.

Dzirasa went through a lot of vaccine rollout information in her presentation to the Rules and Legislative Oversight Committee, including the current mandate from the state:

To focus vaccine resources on adults 65 and over.
To set aside at least 100 doses a week for educators.
To ensure that they have second doses available.

As of Monday, Dzirasa said close to 47,000 people have received their first doses in Baltimore City, which is about 8% of the population.

Some vaccine has been re-allocated to healthcare partners, like, Mercy to help get people on priority groups vaccinated, as only second doses will be fulfilled at the mass pod site for the entire month of February.

The health department currently has a list of about 18,000 registered older adults.

“We’ve been able to refer over 3,700 to those healthcare partners who are helping to disseminate first doses this month, as well as last month,” Dzirasa said.

“Who’s making the determination who goes next?” Schleifer asked.

“We’ve given them a list — that 18,000 older adults list. We’ve also surveyed non-public school educators and received lists from them,” Dzirasa said.

Of all of the doses of the vaccine that have been administered in Baltimore City by all providers, only 36% has gone to city residents.

The health department had already said that the goal is to have 80% of the Baltimore City population vaccinated by March of 2022.

One clarification: Drzirasa said that figure includes the hope that kids will be part of the vaccination eligibility by then.

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