Maryland will receive nearly 50,000 doses of the newly approved Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine this week, days after the one-shot vaccine was authorized by the Food and Drug Administration.
Acting Health Secretary Dennis Schrader said about 55%, or 27,280 doses, will go to two mass vaccinations sites at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore and the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs’ ballpark in Charles County.
Another 10,000 doses will go to local health departments, with the rest going to hospitals and federally qualified health centers.
Once again, state senators taking part in a vaccine work group asked Schrader on Monday about the inequity of distribution among minority populations.
As of Sunday, Prince George’s County continues to report the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state with 73,431. However, the county accounts for the lowest percentage of first and second doses administered in the state at 11.4%.
Although about 25% of Baltimore City residents have received the vaccine, Sen. Mary Washington said only 6% of Black residents have been vaccinated. Blacks account for 60,000 of the city’s population.
“We have gone through week after week when we have questioned the rollout and shown the inconsistencies,” Washington said to Schrader. “Shown the unwillingness to responsibility, yet you blame others. You blame hesitancy. It’s basic community public health 101.”
Sen. Clarence Lam, a Democrat who represents parts of Baltimore and Howard counties, said the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine could ensure more minority communities.
“I would urge you to consider and target them … it may be easier to target hard-to-reach populations if there’s risk they may not show up for their second dose,” said Lam, a physician. “I urge you to think about a little bit further.”
Schrader said officials with the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked states to spread out the doses statewide.
“They don’t want us targeting specific populations, so we are honoring that request and spreading the dose across the various channels that we have established,” he said.
However, the state plans to at least target Prince George’s.
Schrader said 20,000 of the 25,000 doses administered at the Six Flags America site in Upper Marlboro came from residents from Anne Arundel, Howard and Montgomery counties. Prince George’s residents accounted for the remaining 5,000. There’s no residency requirement at those sites and any state-managed places such as pharmacies.
The state tested a text-messaging system in Prince George’s and scheduled 370 appointments over the weekend at Six Flags.
A state vaccine equity task force will work with Prince George’s health officials to reach at least 500 residents per week through texting, especially for those with limited computer technology.
“We have to ensure the county and the state work together [and] are intentional about getting those appointments scheduled,” said Brig. Gen. Janeen Birckhead of the Maryland National Guard, who is part of the state’s task force. “We had some challenges upfront when I first started with the Prince George’s County list and residents responding. I don’t believe that it was an issue of hesitancy. I believe it’s an issue of technology [and] meeting the citizens where they are.”
The state also plans to launch three mobile vaccination clinics to target senior citizens and minority communities. This will be coordinated with state and local health department officials established in a particular area for a few days.
Sen. Ron Young (D-Frederick County) said the state must provide more help and not assume Blacks, Latinos and Asians don’t reside in the western part of the state.
“Three mobiles aren’t going to cover the state well,” he said. “You’re making a lot of people drive all over the state. Some people can’t afford to do that.”