Maryland’s acting health secretary grilled on vaccine distribution

It’s still hard to get access to the COVID-19 vaccine in Maryland, but acting Health Secretary Dennis Schrader is encouraging residents to take steps to increase their chances of securing an appointment.

During a virtual state senate committee meeting, Schrader said residents may sign up on multiple waiting lists, but added: “Once they get an appointment, we’d like to encourage them to cancel the other waiting list they’ve put themselves on.”

Schrader was grilled by senators about the frustration many people have been facing with the registration process and the need to register for multiple waiting lists.

There are currently more than two million people across the state eligible to receive the vaccine, but demand exceeds supply.

Maryland currency receives about 10,000 doses a day from the federal government for 2,000 providers.

When asked by state Sen. Clarence Lam — a physician who represents parts of Baltimore and Howard County — why one statewide website can’t be created to better accommodate residents, considering Maryland is 44th out of all 50 states when it comes to vaccine distribution, Schrader argued access would be limited.

“We believe that what we are doing is more equitable. A lot of this is about supply, not the technology,” Schrader said.

According to Schrader, one website would also allow for a single point of failure.

“Having multiple different sites is actually leading to multiple different sites where, if it’s done well, everyone can get in line,” Lam added.

A shortage of supply when looking at first doses was also a focus during the senate committee hearing as demand continues to grow.

Sen. Jim Rosapepe said it seems as if the department is creating an artificial shortage by encouraging providers to hold on to shots for the second rounds of those already vaccinated.

Schrader said every one of the second doses that have been received is for someone who has already received their first shot.

“What we don’t want to do is give it away to somebody else when it has somebody’s name on it,” Schrader said.

Rosepepe countered that “the federal government didn’t put the name on it, Mr. Secretary. You put the name on it,” as he urged those doses to be used immediately for those in need of first doses.

Another major concern expressed by Rosepepe is the low rate of vaccination in Prince George’s County.

Maryland recently opened a mass vaccination site at Six Flags America, where 12,000 people signed up for appointments within minutes, but Rosepepe says more supply is needed to keep up with demand.

See video of the meeting below:

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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