Md. congressman tries to reduce COVID vaccine confusion, pushes for easier process

Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Md., addressed confusion about coronavirus vaccine access and sought to alleviate lingering hesitancy in some demographics during an hourlong webinar Wednesday afternoon.

With soaring demand and limited supply worsening confusion about who can get a COVID-19 vaccine and how, Brown, who represents Maryland’s 4th Congressional District, hosted a lengthy Facebook video chat with health experts who addressed questions about the safety and availability of authorized vaccines.

Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman, Anne Arundel County’s chief health officer, urged residents to preregister for the vaccine, no matter what group they might fall into based on their health and age.

“Preregistration is critical,” Kalyanaraman said. “That way, we can get our invitations out to you as soon as you’re eligible.”

Once vaccines open up to people under the age of 65, the state will prioritize those with underlying health conditions that might make them more vulnerable to serious illness resulting from infection — though Kalyanaraman admitted the county won’t necessarily be combing through your medical history to make sure you’re on the up-and-up.

“That’s also why it’s important to get it (the vaccine) into doctors’ hands,” he said. “They know their patients and they don’t have to worry about that.”

He said as the supply of vaccine gets closer to meeting the demand, primary care physicians will be another source of vaccination.

Another question posed had to do with waiting for the vaccine if you’ve already had COVID-19. Dr. Julie Ledgerwood, who is chief of the clinical trials program for the vaccine research center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said even if you’ve already had the coronavirus, if you’re healthy and can get other vaccinations, you should get this one.

She acknowledged waiting for future breakthroughs too, including final results from Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccination shot. Information on that could come soon. Word about a pediatric vaccination for COVID-19 will come later, with results of a study likely to come later into 2021.

But much of the chat focused on making people aware about how to sign up for the shot and how important it is. Noting the racial disparity that already exists in coronavirus cases as well as vaccination rates, Deneen Richmond, president of Luminus Health Doctors Community Medical Center in Lanham, said getting a vaccine is the quickest way to return to normal.

“It really is our best shot,” Richmond said. “It’s the one thing that we can do so that we can all get back to our lives.”

Brown acknowledged the slow pace of the vaccine effort in Maryland and said more needs to be done to speed things up.

“Marylanders, we find, are often confused about where they can get the vaccines and the process to get an appointment,” Brown said. “Widespread vaccination is essential to controlling this virus and avoiding more deaths.”

Brown urged the state to set up what he called a “one-stop shop for vaccine appointments.”

“No more multiple forms or confusing websites,” Brown said.

He promised billions more dollars in federal money will be made available to help states continue to distribute vaccines.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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