Some Hospitals Are Short Second Doses Of Vaccine, State Officials Say
Some Maryland hospitals have told officials they aren’t getting enough second doses of the new COVID-19 vaccine. State lawmakers raised concerns about these reports at a meeting Monday afternoon.
Rachel Baye and Nathan Sterner discuss the problem.
How is this process supposed to work, and what is not working the way it is supposed to?
Every week, hospitals and other health care providers get a predetermined number of vaccine doses. The Maryland Department of Health designates some of these as first doses and some as second doses.
At Monday’s meeting of a state Senate workgroup focused on the vaccine rollout, Sen. Clarence Lam, a Democrat who represents parts of Baltimore and Howard counties, asked acting Health Secretary Dennis Schrader to confirm what he’s been hearing from hospitals.
“Today, I've heard that multiple hospitals and health systems are having difficulty getting second doses for their health care workers — that there are second doses that were supposed to have been delivered last week that are still missing and have not materialized,” Lam said. “And now there are second doses for healthcare workers this week that are less than half of what hospitals are expecting.”
Schrader confirmed that this is happening. He blamed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for the problem.
“We're working with them,” Schrader said. “We've been on the phone with them all weekend trying to figure out — they haven't been able to put their finger on what the issue is.”
Schrader said he expects to sort out the problem in the next few days.
Both vaccines available in the United States require two doses to be effective, and they need to be given either three or four weeks apart, depending on which vaccine it is. Are there people who have missed their second dose because of this?
No, so far the affected hospitals have been able to make up the difference.
Let’s say that today, a hospital gets 500 first doses. In either three or four weeks, the hospital should get 500 second doses. But if 200 of those second doses are missing, the hospital has to take doses away from people who were supposed to get their first doses.
How does that affect the overall rollout?
The problem is that it slows down the state’s vaccination process. The people who got their first doses four weeks ago were primarily frontline healthcare workers, in the state’s Phase 1A. They are largely the people getting second doses now.
Some hospitals are taking first doses away from people in phases 1B and 1C — for example, people over the age of 65 — to give second doses to healthcare workers.
This is against the state’s rules for its vaccination program. It also makes it look like the hospitals did not use all of their assigned first doses because they did not administer as many first doses as the state was expecting.
Gov. Larry Hogan has warned providers that if they don’t administer 75% of their first doses, they will get fewer doses in future weeks; their doses will be reallocated to other providers.
The acting health secretary blamed the federal government for this problem. Is there something the state could do to fix it?
Lam said he wants the health department to give providers permission to do what some have already been forced to do — to give doses slated for patients instead to healthcare workers who need their second doses.
Without that permission, Lam said some providers have taken matters into their own hands. They are hanging onto half of their weekly allotments so that they know they will have second doses available when they need them a few weeks later.