CoronavirusCovid-19Prince George's CountyWilliam J. Ford

Md. Lawmakers Alarmed by Vaccine Disparity in Prince George’s

A mass coronavirus vaccination site at Six Flags America in Upper Marlboro sought to help ensure more Prince George’s County residents receive a shot in the arm.

But Maryland’s acting Health Secretary Dennis Schrader informed a state Senate work group during its weekly briefing Monday that it isn’t happening.

The majority-Black jurisdiction continues to lead the state in confirmed coronavirus cases with 72,272. It also ranks last in the state with only 6% of its population receiving the first dose of the two-shot vaccine. The county percentage of those who’ve gotten both shots decreases to 2%, according to the state health department.

“The No. 1 and 2 users of the mass vaccinate sites are Montgomery County and Howard County, so we know that,” Schrader said. “We’re going to press to get the population in Prince George’s County to get vaccinated. We’re not going to rest until we get those numbers up.”

Because Six Flags and the other site at the Baltimore Convention Center are managed by the state, residents throughout the state can schedule an appointment and receive a vaccine. A third location is set to open Thursday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, home of the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens.

The goal at each of those sites will be to provide 2,000 daily doses, but state officials warn appointments fill up quickly.

Three more sites are scheduled to open in southern Maryland, on the Eastern Shore and in western Maryland.

To help Prince George’s, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford visited Reid Temple AME Church in Glenn Dale, which opened as a vaccination site on Feb. 12, to promote the safety of COVID-19 vaccine and encourage church leaders to help in the vaccination process. Almost 1,500 people were scheduled to receive a vaccine during a four-day soft launch at the church.

But the state numbers still show slower progress in Prince George’s.

“Overall, it just looked like Prince Georgians were not getting vaccinated,” said Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City). “We know vaccines are going there, but the numbers are so incredibly low from the total number of residents.”

To help those with limited technology, the state released a phone number (1-855-634-6829) for people to call for vaccination support.

Schrader announced Monday a preregistration portal will be available in March for residents to schedule appointments at the mass vaccination sites.

Immunization appointments at hospitals, health centers, pharmacies and 222 other providers will still be scheduled separately.

“This is going to allow us to manage the flow of appointments,” Schrader said. “But most importantly, we expect that establishing a preregistration system will improve the user experience and better prepare for the day when supplies are very, very abundant.”

Sen. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City) continued to grill Schrader about vaccine equity for people of color and senior citizens. She said it worsened when the state provided more access for people no matter a person’s residency.

State data from Jan. 26 to Saturday show the first doses of vaccines administered increase between 2% to 4% of Blacks. In comparison, the time frame for whites show the first doses started at nearly 6% and rose more than 10%.

“It’s going to get the worse,” Washington said. “The disparity is worse and you see that evidence right in front of your face.”

Schrader said he didn’t see the data Washington spoke of, which was presented at the beginning of the one-hour session by Michael Powell, the state’s chief innovation officer.

“Our data has shown the African American distribution has held steady in about 15% for the last eight weeks,” he said. “That’s not a good number. I want to look at what [Powell’s] numbers are saying because our numbers suggest that there’s been a steady percentage across the last several weeks. Our goal is to increase that.”

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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