Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks sent a text message to residents Saturday with a simple message: Vaccines are safe.
The three vaccines available – Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson – show a high effectiveness rate against COVID-19 and keep people out of the hospital, based on clinical trials from each company.
Moderna and Pfizer require two doses and must be stored in critically low temperatures. Vaccine recipients only need one dose of the Johnson & Johnson formula which can be stored in conventional refrigeration.
Although the efficacy rate for Johnson & Johnson stood at 65 percent and Moderna and Pfizer at 95 percent, health and county officials said all three are safe.
“The county has three very safe and effective life-saving vaccine available,” according to the text message from the county. “The health department does not recommend one vaccine brand over another. Due to limited vaccine availability, you cannot select which vaccine you receive.”
The Maryland Vaccine Equity Task Force will lead an effort to make sure residents of underserved communities are treated, especially in Prince George’s County and Baltimore City, where officials stressed not enough vaccines have been distributed.
The goal will be to partner with nonprofit organizations, faith-based community groups and others to ensure vaccines are administered.
“My hope is that we get more vaccine so it could 100 percent,” said Brig. Gen. Janeen Birckhead of the Maryland National Guard, who will help lead the statewide effort. “We can get together with partners and address that immediately.”
Process Set for Expanding Number of Clinics
The statewide initiative will go through a seven-step process for community leaders to submit a proposal to open a vaccine clinic in a particular area.
The task force members that include Birckhead and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford will analyze each proposal for distribution disparities, lack of transportation and other data.
“It is not a one-size-fits-all” approach, Birckhead said.
A vaccination clinic will open at First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Upper Marlboro, the biggest church in Prince George’s and one of the largest in the D.C. area.
For recipients of the Moderna and Pfizer formulas, Birckhead said, an appointment will be scheduled for a second shot before a person leaves the church.
If a Johnson & Johnson vaccine is available, then that person would require only one dose.
The church will partner with the University of Maryland Medical System, which said in a statement the clinic will open on March 16. More information such as registration and operation hours will be made available at https://www.umms.org/capital/coronavirus/get-vaccine.
The goal will be to administer up to 900 doses per day.
Alsobrooks announced Thursday that the Wayne K. Curry Sports and Learning Center in Landover will be closed March 13-28 for scheduled maintenance. The county health department administered thousands of doses of vaccines there, including of public school employees.
In the center’s place, vaccination sites opened at the Kentland Community Center starting Monday, March 8 and Cedar Heights Community Center in Seat Pleasant on March 15.
Alsobrooks held a press briefing Thursday with suggestions for the state on inequitable distribution of vaccines.
Because only 11 percent of county residents received the vaccines administered at the mass vaccination site at Six Flags America in Upper Marlboro, Alsobrooks said at least 50 percent should go to county residents.
They are considering designating certain days for residents to go there, she said.
As of Saturday, the county continues to lead the state with the most confirmed coronavirus cases with more than 74,000.
Although the county’s health department receives an average of 1,800 doses per day, it registered the lowest COVID-19 percentage of vaccines administered at 14 percent, according to https://coronavirus.maryland.gov.
Three mobile clinics will travel to administer doses with a focus on senior citizens.
“The main issue is lack of access to vaccines. It is not the hesitancy,” Alsobrooks said. “We still have nearly 118,000 people on our pre-registration list. These are people who want the vaccine.”