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COVID-19 Vaccine: The Wait, And The Aftermath

Gregory Terry

The state health department says more than 725,000 people in Maryland had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine by Monday morning. That's a little more than 12 percent of the state's population.

Yet as the list of groups eligible to get shots has grown, so have frustration levels among those trying to secure an appointment. Here’s a look at what the wait and the aftermath feel like from some of those Marylanders who have gotten their shots and those who are still waiting.

Gregory Terry, a nurse at Medstar Franklin Square Medical Center in Baltimore, was hesitant about the vaccine at first, but now he uses his status as a platform to address others in the African American community who may be wary of the vaccine.

“I think it's important that the African American community hears it from other African Americans in health care specifically, that hey, it's okay,” he said.

Zackary Berger says he felt some guilt about getting the vaccine early. As a doctor at Johns Hopkins Hospital and staff physician at the Esperanza Center health clinic caring for undocumented Spanish speaking patients, he says he wants to see improvement in the overall system.

“I do feel a sense of determination to help with vaccine distribution, in an advocacy role and a desire to see things distributed more equitably,” he said.

Berger wants to use his position to call out a system that he says is not functioning as it should.

He says he would tell people, "I'm getting vaccinated, so let's make this that other groups can have this experience, and we're going to have to change things to make that possible.”

Renee Wilson, of Northeast Baltimore, joined the Pfizer BioNtech trial in September. Last month she learned she had received the active vaccine, not a placebo, which has given her the courage to plan a vacation with a friend.

“But that wouldn't have even come into my head If I didn't have a vaccine on board,” she said. 

But Jackie Oldham, 67, of Baltimore City, isn’t planning a vacation anytime soon. She’s still waiting to just secure an appointment and knows the competition is stiff.

“It is infuriating,” she fumed. “I liken it to the Hunger Games where you're forced to go out and fight for this really necessary, incredibly vital vaccine. And you’re just being pitted against each other.”

Some people just feel frustrated trying to work with a botched appointment system that can have different eligibility rules from county to county, like Sara Torvik, an 80-year-old retired psychiatric nurse who lives in a retirement community in Montgomery County.

She’s savvy with online appointments and waiting lists but says it’s “easy to get very impatient waiting.”

“And, of course, as I hear about other people being vaccinated who live elsewhere, relatives, friends and so forth, it’s that feeling of ‘Okay, why not me? What's happening here?’”  

Gov. Larry Hogan has tried to alleviate some of the frustration by opening mass at the Baltimore Convention Center and the Six Flags Amusement Park in Prince Georges County. A third site opened Monday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore with a limited number of appointments, but the website crashed within minutes.

Melissa Gerr is a Senior Producer for On the Record. She started in public media at Twin Cities Public Television in St. Paul, Minn., where she is from, and then worked as a field producer for Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland. She made the jump to audio-lover in Baltimore as a digital media editor at Mid-Atlantic Media and Laureate Education, Inc. and as a field producer for "Out of the Blocks." Her beat is typically the off-beat with an emphasis on science, culture and things that make you say, 'Wait, what?'
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