With a limited supply of coronavirus vaccines currently available in Maryland, residents have begun registering for multiple appointments with several providers.
That’s now the advice from acting Health Secretary Dennis Schrader.
“We’re not trying to discourage people from signing up on multiple waiting lists but once they get an appointment, we would like to encourage them to cancel the other waiting lists,” he said Monday, Feb. 8 during a virtual session before a Senate oversight vaccine work group.
Last week, when senators asked Schrader if residents should do this or not, he did not have an answer. Several senators expressed their displeasure with his response Monday.
“I feel like we are in a time warp and this is survival of the fittest,” said Sen. Addie Eckardt, a Republican who represents part of the Eastern Shore. “Those who are health literate get access and those who aren’t can’t.”
Sen. Clarence Lam, a Democrat who represents parts of Baltimore and Howard counties, compared the situation to “The Hunger Games” where teenagers competed to the death based on a novel series that later became a movie franchise.
Lam, a physician, pointed to strategies employed by residents throughout the state as they sign on to local health department websites and pharmacies at places that include Walgreens, CVS and Giant.
“It’s not only inconvenient. I think it’s inadequate to not have a more unified way to sign up,” he said. “Why can’t there be a single line here in the state for people to sign up?”
Schrader said only four states — New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma and West Virginia — have organized a one-stop website.
“We believe what we are doing is more equitable,” he said. “A lot of this is about supply and not the technology. There’s a very high risk to create a single point of failure.”
“Right now, you have a lot of different points of failure,” Lam said.
The state has currently administered about 700,000 doses produced by Pfizer and Moderna.
Gov. Larry Hogan has touted more vaccines will become available as supplies increase, include a possibly third provider, Johnson & Johnson, that could receive approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Johnson & Johnson contracted with Emergent BioSolutions, Inc. of Gaithersburg to produce one billion doses of a one-shot vaccine. But equity still remains a problem.
A mass vaccination at Six Flags America in Upper Marlboro currently receives about 250 daily doses in the state’s majority Black and second-largest jurisdiction of Prince George’s County. The goal will be to distribute 2,000 doses weekly.
Further north at the state fairgrounds in Baltimore County, the state scheduled to administer 2,000 doses in about five hours Monday.
Sen. Jim Rosapepe (D-District 21), who represents parts of Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties, asked Schrader, “What’s going on in Prince George’s?”
Shrader said some people want to take the vaccine but some are not.
“It’s not for a lack of doses. It’s for a lack of demand. We’ve got to get the demand up,” he said.
“It is not a lack of demand. It’s a mismatch of supply and demand,” Rosapepe replied. “I assure you there is enough demand in Prince George’s County for the doses that you have.”