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Baltimore County Plans Program To Deal With Vaccine Inequity

Baltimore County

African Americans make up more than 30% of the population in Baltimore County, but have received only 13% of the COVID-19 vaccinations distributed in the county, according to county data.

County Health Officer Dr. Gregory Branch said in an interview with WYPR Thursday that he will launch in the coming weeks a program to get into hard-to-reach Black communities, which will include holding small clinics in churches and community centers. And he said in about six weeks he’ll have a van equipped for vaccinations going into neighborhoods.

But for now, he said there is not enough vaccine available to launch an effective community program.

“Hopefully, it’s going to like cosmically fuse together,” Branch said. “All my stuff is going to be here, and the vaccine will be here, and it’ll work out.”

According to the county, 13.6% of the 54,000 vaccines distributed by the county health department have been to African Americans while  2.6% of the vaccines have been given to Hispanic or Latinx residents, who comprise 5.8% of the county’s population according to the United States Census Bureau.

Branch said he is scouting for clinic locations in Turner Station and Lansdowne “because that’s where I’ve got a lot of Black and brown people.”

“I have got to go out and try to convince more people who are Black and brown to get the vaccine,” Branch said.

As of Thursday, more than 315,000 people have signed up for the county’s vaccine registry. About 75%, or 235,000 of them, are white. The county wants anyone who lives or works in Baltimore County to register to get the vaccine.

County spokesman Sean Naron said in a statement that in the coming days, the county plans to launch a campaign focused on educating hard-to-reach and underserved communities across Baltimore County on the safety and efficacy of COVID vaccines.

On Thursday, Gov. Larry Hogan presented a plan to make vaccine distribution more equitable statewide. It focuses on community groups and churches requesting vaccine clinics in their neighborhoods.

The Baltimore County Health Department has a mass vaccination clinic at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium and occasionally runs smaller clinics at the Essex campus of the Community College of Baltimore County and at the Randallstown Community Center.

Branch said the percentage of African Americans the county immunizes at the Randallstown clinic is greater than in Timonium because they are “going closer into people’s neighborhoods.”

Baltimore County also is offering free Uber rides for people who need transportation to the clinic at the fairgrounds. If you have a vaccine appointment and need a ride, you can get it by calling 3-1-1.

This week the county also began going to homebound people’s homes to give them the vaccine. You have to note that you are homebound on the county’s vaccine registry and have a note from your doctor confirming it.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2
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