Marylanders traveling to Six Flags America in Upper Marlboro are not only receiving shots of COVID-19 vaccines in their arms but also hope society can return to some sort of normalcy.
However, one glaring problem remains as the COVID-19 vaccine rollout could take several months to complete, especially with only 250 doses administered on a daily basis at the theme park in Prince George’s County currently used as a mass vaccination site.
Prince George’s County continues to lead the state of Maryland with the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases with about 70,000. However, state-managed sites such as Six Flags don’t have a residency requirement which would prohibit residents from any part of the state to schedule an appointment and receive a vaccine.
The majority-Black jurisdiction has received the fewest doses in the state of Maryland with nearly 5 percent of the population vaccinated.
In Maryland, Blacks make up 30 percent of the state’s population but represent 35 percent of COVID-19 deaths and only 16 percent have received a vaccine, according to CDC and state health department data.
“Among the Black and brown communities, there is skepticism [and] outright fear about the medical community,” said Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Maryland), who toured Six Flags on Monday, Feb. 8.
“We need celebrities and household figures. We need pastors. We need community leaders who can speak to the need to get vaccinated and the safety to doing that,” he said.
Optimism persists with the Biden administration’s vaccine rollout plan to provide 100 million doses in 100 days and the hopeful passage of a nearly $2 trillion COVID-19 relief package that includes $20 billion for state, local and tribal governments.
As of Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated nearly 59 million doses have been delivered nationwide with 42 million administered.
The Virginia Health Department shows about 1.1 million, or 11 percent of the population, vaccinated through Tuesday, Feb. 9. According to the Commonwealth’s health department website, its rollout plan features a three-tiered first phase similar to Maryland’s.
The first two phases labeled 1A and 1B include residents of long-term care facilities, health care workers, adults 65 and older, those ages 16 and older with underlying health conditions and those incarcerated and residing in homeless shelters.
Virginia’s 1C group are essential workers but vaccines haven’t been distributed, according to the health department.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser provided an update Monday that 67,688 doses have been administered with another 11,475 available this week.
The mayor’s office announced that on Mondays at 12 and 7 p.m., vaccination appointments will be available for child care workers and teachers and staff at independent and charter schools. The sites have not been released.
The Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church in Southeast will host two vaccination clinics for residents 65 and older this week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday and Saturday. Appointments have already been filled but a backup list will be provided at www.fivemedicine.com.
In neighboring Maryland, about 85 percent of the 727,828 doses received from the federal government had been administered through Tuesday.
But some people say the state still needs to do a better job.
Lack of Internet Service Leaves Many on the Outside
Nancy Carr said members with the AARP of Maryland continue to remain confused about the state’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout plan.
Carr, a spokesperson for the organization, said people called the state’s Maryland Access Point to receive answers but find themselves placed on hold while or lament that websites routinely crash as residents attempt to register for appointments. Some, she says, continue to attempt to register online at various locations in efforts to grab the first available appointment.
Another major problem, she said: some members don’t have internet access.
“It shouldn’t have to be that way. We want Marylanders 50-plus to have a reliant, coherent system to get the vaccines,” she said. “There has to be a central, one-stop location for all Marylanders to have access to this vaccine.”
Five days before Brown stopped at Six Flags, he wrote a joint letter with his Democratic colleagues in the Maryland Congressional delegation to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan asking for a “course correction.”
“The lack of state-wide coordination and communication in Maryland’s vaccine program has yielded rampant confusion and a disjointed, inequitable roll out,” according to the delegation letter. “It is imperative we stop issuing sweeping directives without giving county health departments, local jurisdictions and educators the tools they need to implement an effective vaccination program.”
The same day Hogan toured vaccination sites in Baltimore City and Baltimore County, he responded with a letter Monday in which he mentioned the state has increased its daily doses from 2,000 to 20,000.
Hogan reiterated that the state’s three-tiered, first phase follows guidelines from the CDC and Prevention and President Biden.
It also mentioned how private partnerships with local pharmacies at Giant Foods, Walmart, Safeway and Rite Aid are facilitated through the CDCs “Pharmacy Transfer Program” and not the state.
“It is surprising that you are unaware of this federal program,” Hogan wrote in the letter. “We will not rest until every Marylander who wants a vaccine can get a vaccine. You can be a part of this incredible undertaking, or you can criticize it from the cloakroom.”