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Frustrations Continue Over Vaccination Process

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Responding to complaints from residents who can’t get an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccination, acting State Health Secretary Dennis Schrader suggested they sign up in multiple places.

“Once they get an appointment, we'd like to encourage them to...cancel the other waiting lists they've put themselves on,” he told a state senate workgroup Monday. 

Unlike some states, Maryland does not have a centralized website where all eligible residents can sign up for vaccinations. Instead, residents can sign up on multiple websites — local health departments or nearby hospitals — depending on where they want to get their vaccine. Depending on their provider, residents can also make an appointment over the phone. 

Schrader pushed back on critics who say the state needs a centralized system. 

 

“As we look at other states, there is a very high risk of creating one website that fails, and then the whole system collapses,” he said. “The way it’s set up now, we are getting doses in the arms and it's working.” 

 

But lawmakers lamented that since the beginning of the vaccination process, Maryland has consistently lagged behind most states in getting vaccines into the arms of residents. 

Sen. Clarence Lam, a Democrat who represents parts of Baltimore and Howard counties, argued that the current registration process is not working. 

 

“I would just beg to differ,” he said. “I think creating a single website where everyone can go into as long as it's done well and supported is the best way to be able to queue people up in line.” 

 

Lam and other lawmakers at the meeting said constituents were frustrated navigating multiple websites. 

 

“The variations there are really confusing to people and make it really difficult for people to be able to sign up,” Lam said. 

 

Sen. Ron Young, a Frederick County Democrat, was one of many residents who struggled to make an appointment. After getting his first dose, he couldn’t schedule his second dose. 

“That's just me. But I know that's happening with a lot of people,” Young said. “You said call in all these places. That's really tough. I mean, I'm having people tell me, they're calling all over the place. They're not getting in.” 

Young said that in particular, many of his senior constituents were struggling with appointments. 

Lawmakers contend that the most vulnerable residents are not being prioritized.

Prince George’s County, a predominantly Black jurisdiction, has the lowest proportion of vaccinated residents in Maryland. As of Tuesday, 4.19% of residents had received the first dose, according to state data, while less than 1% had received their second dose.

When Sen. Jim Rosapepe, a Democrat who represents Prince George’s and Anne Arundel Counties, asked why this was the case, Schrader blamed vaccine hesitancy. 

“We’re going to do everything we possibly can,” Schrader said. “It's not for a lack of doses. It's for a lack of demand. And we've got to get the demand up.

 

But Rosapepe pushed back, saying just as many, if not more, of his Prince George’s constituents are eager to get the vaccine. 

“It is not a lack of demand,” Rosapepe said. “It is a mismatch of supply and demand. I assure you there is enough demand in Prince George's County for the doses that you have.” 

Last week when counties had a shortage in allocated second doses, Schrader instructed providers to prioritize giving the vaccine to people who had gotten their first dose. 

Shortly after the meeting, the Anne Arundel County Health Department announced that it is cancelling appointments for second doses Tuesday and Wednesday morning. The department stated that there has been a delay in receiving more than 7,000 second doses over the past two weeks.

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