After delays in the shipment of COVID-19 vaccine doses to Montgomery County, Maryland, due to winter weather problems, vaccination appointments were on the verge of being postponed until a new supply came in Monday afternoon.
The Maryland Health Department allocated the county 10,000 doses for last week — 4,500 first doses and 5,500 second doses — and 4,500 first doses for this week from the delayed shipment, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services told WTOP.
County officials had said Monday morning in an online briefing that COVID-19 vaccination appointments scheduled last week could be rescheduled starting Wednesday if the delayed vaccine shipments weren’t delivered soon.
The county saw a decrease by about 5,000 vaccinations for residents first dose last week after the winter weather delayed vaccine shipments. The winter weather has been delaying vaccine shipments across the D.C. area.
Dr. Raymond Crowel, Montgomery County’s health and human services director, said that people should drive safely to their Monday or Tuesday appointments, and that if they were late, vaccination workers would wait.
If you don’t feel you can get to your appointment safely, he said, call 240-777-1755 to reschedule.
County officials reiterated their call for Maryland to create a statewide vaccination website, as well as a regional vaccination website, that they said would help residents get vaccinated quicker.
About 127,000 Montgomery residents have received their first COVID-19 vaccine shot, and about 50,000 people are fully vaccinated, according to Crowel.
County Council President Tom Hucker said that residents are “very frustrated and angry” at the “chaotic” system, adding, “We could be vaccinating 10 times as many residents” if the Maryland Department of Health was not “siphoning off” doses for private providers and mass vaccination sites.
Crowel said a regional vaccination site would allow officials to target doses to particular communities who cannot travel to the state sites — there’s currently one at Six Flags in Prince George’s County, and two in Baltimore.
The county is currently working with partners, such as Connect-A-Ride, for taxi services to help residents without access to transportation to get to mass vaccination sites.
County Council Vice President Gabe Albornoz said, “It does not make any walking-around sense” that the largest county in Maryland doesn’t have a mass vaccination site.
Crowel said that the county is allocating doses to communities that have been hit the hardest, which he said is mostly Black and brown communities. The county is assigning doses based on ZIP codes and census tracking; he said it is “not based on population, but on impact.”
Albornoz warned residents to be cautious of fraudulent vaccination websites. He said any program requesting payments or Social Security information is a red flag. Residents can contact 311 with any questions or concerns.
Crowel encouraged residents to continue to get tested, as testing numbers have dropped from 50,000 a week to about 35,000 to 40,000 a week after the holiday season.
Crowel and Albornoz said that a central registration site would cut down on the sharing of links for making appointments, which sometimes go to people who aren’t supposed to be getting vaccinated yet.
Crowel said, as of Saturday night, links were still being shared, and it would take “a lot of work to undo that damage.”
Albornoz added, “People are showing up to these destinations with an appointment,” posing a challenge to staff to turn people away, and creating “an appointment that has just been wasted.”
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