Gov. Larry Hogan announced new steps Tuesday designed to speed up the state’s rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The latest state data show that just under 77,000 Marylanders have received the vaccine, correlating with about 28% of the doses Hogan said have been distributed to health care providers.
“Bad news is it’s not going as fast as anyone wants,” Hogan said. “I'm not gonna be happy until we're done.”
To explain the delays, Hogan laid out the vaccine distribution process during Tuesday’s press conference.
Each week the state places an order with the federal government for doses, which are shipped directly to the health care providers who administer them.
“It is the federal contract with CVS and Walgreens that's responsible for our nursing homes,” he said. “Maryland hospitals are the ones who are doing their own staffs and frontline health care workers in those hospitals, and our 24 county health departments are receiving their doses directly for their own health department staffs and their counties’ first responders.”
Some hospitals and local health departments are administering vaccines faster than others. The slowest hospital has only given out 16% of its doses, Hogan said.
Hogan also blamed a lag in data reporting.
For example, he said he spoke with the head of CVS, “who said, they had actually done nearly twice as many vaccinations in Maryland as are being reported, that they are now working with our team to correct data reporting issues, that they had not entered the data into our system yet.”
That lack of data makes it difficult for officials to know where there are problems in the rollout process.
To remedy this, Hogan signed an executive order requiring providers to report vaccines within 24 hours.
The state also is implementing a new use-it-or-lose-it policy for the vaccines. Any facility that has not administered at least 75% of their first dose allocations could have future allocations reduced under a new state health department order.
“No doses should be sitting in freezers going unused waiting or backing up while others are in need of more,” Hogan said. “Either use the doses that you have been allocated or they will be redirected to another facility or provider.”
Hogan also announced that the Maryland National Guard will give local health departments logistical support and connect them with people who are qualified to administer vaccines.
And the governor announced some changes to who can get vaccines when.
In addition to the healthcare workers already eligible, law enforcement and correctional officers and judiciary staff will soon be able to get vaccines.
The next phase, “Phase 1B,” is being expanded to include all adults age 75 and older. It will also include people with developmental disabilities, and teachers, childcare, and other educational workers.
Hogan said he expects Phase 1B to begin at the end of January.
Phase 1C, expected in March, will include adults age 65 and older, as well as workers in grocery stores, public transit, agricultural production and manufacturing.
Phase two will include more essential workers and younger adults with underlying health conditions that put them at greater risk if they get COVID-19.
At the current pace, Hogan said he expects the state to have enough doses for about 30% of the state’s population by the end of May.
Jinlene Chan, the state’s deputy health secretary for public health services, warned Marylanders against using someone else’s registration link to get a vaccine before it’s their turn.
“The unauthorized use of these private registration links that are intended for someone else and directed towards healthcare workers — really, if someone uses it in an unauthorized way, it takes spots away from our healthcare heroes, who really are at the frontlines of caring for individuals, not only with COVID-19, but with so many other conditions,” Chan said. “Vaccines will become available to more and more Marylanders, and we are looking forward to advancing into the next phases of our plan as soon as we possibly can.”