About 10% of Baltimoreans have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, but distribution challenges like limited supply and bad weather remain a challenge, said City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa.
“Despite the positive news and important milestone, vaccines remain in short supply both in Baltimore and nationally,” she said at a Monday afternoon news conference.“At this time, vaccine supply remains our greatest limiting factor in providing more vaccinations to residents.”
In the meantime, Dzirasa said, there are steps eligible residents can take to ensure that once there are more vaccines available they are well-positioned to receive them. Those steps include visiting the Maryland Department of Health’s website to fill out interest forms with local hospital partners, clinics and pharmacies.
Even that has been an issue for Marylanders: a limited number of vaccine appointments at the M&T Bank Stadium mass vaccination site were filled within minutes after becoming available Monday morning.
At this time, vaccines in Baltimore are available by appointment only and only for priority groups 1A, 1B and 1C.
“At this time, over 20,000 Baltimore older adults have indicated their interest in receiving their vaccine through our interest form, and our team is working to set up appointments with area health care providers as vaccinations become available to ensure that our older adults continue to be prioritized,” Dzirasa said.
The city did not receive any new vaccine doses last week, when inclement weather affected the supply chain, Dzirasa said. And while Baltimore did receive a new shipment of doses Monday morning, Dzirasa expects that similar weather factors may delay shipments later this week.
Mayor Brandon Scott said he requested that at least half the vaccines distributed at the city’s two mass vaccination sites go to Baltimoreans.
“That request, to my knowledge, was never met,” Scott said. “We're going to continue to work and push with the state to see if we can get those things to happen.”
The Democrat has also emphasized equity in vaccine distribution. The latest data, which tracked doses given through Feb. 18, shows that 26,651 of the majority-Black city’s vaccines have been given to white people, while 19,223 doses were given to Black people.
Scott has said equity requires better outreach to communities of color, as well as grappling with painful historical legacies.
“I think it is very critical for folks to understand that this hesitancy isn't something that people just develop out of thin air,” Scott said. “We're talking about Baltimore City. We're talking about the United States of America, where time and time again, the testing of anything in the health field has basically used African-Americans in this country as guinea pigs.”
In order to deliver effective messaging, the Democrat said, the city must use credible community members to encourage getting vaccinated.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said that 1,350 members, or about 45%, of the department have been vaccinated.
Like municipalities across the country, Baltimore’s case numbers are trending in the right direction: the city hit its lowest rate of daily new COVID-19 cases since Halloween 2020, according to Dzirasa.
“Washing your hands, wearing a well-fitted, multilayered facemask, securely covering your nose and your mouth and keeping at least six feet of distance from others not in your household helps to limit the spread of COVID-19,” she said. “With your help and continued following of these guidelines, we should continue to see progress.”