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Mass Vax Site At State Fairgrounds Closed As Vaccine Effort Shifts To Neighborhoods

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Baltimore County
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The mass vaccination site in Timonium. Credit: Baltimore County

Baltimore County shut down its COVID-19 mass vaccination site at the State Fairgrounds in Timonium this week.

At its busiest in April, the mass vax site inoculated more than 5,000 people in one day. Compare that to the week of July 12, when the health department vaccinated 471 people countywide.

With demand for vaccines way down, Baltimore County Health Officer Dr. Gregory Branch said they deploy mobile vaccine clinics in targeted neighborhoods.

“Specific communities where we know there is an increase in transmission and a decrease in the number of vaccines,” Branch said.

This weekend, there will be a mobile clinic at Eastpoint Mall in Dundalk, which has had high rates of COVID-19. Branch said they are going door-to-door as well.

“Talking to people. Having a conversation,” he said. “‘Hey, how are you doing? I’m from the health department. Have you gotten the vaccine? Want to talk about that?’”

A poll this week by Yahoo News/YouGov found that 37% of the unvaccinated people who responded said they have not gotten the shot because they believe the vaccines pose a greater health risk than COVID-19. This runs contrary to scientific evidence showing the vaccines are highly effective and safe.

“People who have not been vaccinated yet are a diverse group of people,” said David Dowdy, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Interviewed on WYPR’s On The Record, Dowdy said, “There are some people who just will not get this vaccine no matter what. But there are other people with very reasonable concerns about levels of side effects, the risk of COVID to them versus the risk of the vaccine, challenges in accessing vaccine or vaccination locations, etc. I think we need to be listening to all of those concerns.”

At its height, the Timonium mass vaccination clinic was lauded by Gov. Larry Hogan as a model of how to run such a facility. It joins all the state's mass vax clinics that have been closed in recent weeks.

Baltimore County Health Department Spokeswoman Elyn Garrett-Jones said there were not enough people coming to the clinic to justify keeping it open. Plus, the clinic has to get out of the way of the state fair, which was canceled last year because of COVID-19 and is returning for its two-week run beginning August 26.

“We were going to need to be out anyway,” Garrett-Jones said.

In addition to the mobile clinics, Baltimore County continues to run three brick and mortar sites. They are at the Randallstown Community Center, the Sollers Point Multi-Purpose Center in Dundalk, and Sisters Academy of Baltimore in Lansdowne.

The days and times those clinics are open as well as the schedule for the mobile vaccine clinics are available at baltimorecountymd.gov.