Three months after administering its first doses of COVID-19 vaccine to hospital workers on Dec. 14, Maryland’s vaccine program has expanded, reaching eligible residents at more mass vaccination sites and preregistering eligible residents for vaccine appointments.
Key members of a state Senate oversight group seemed pleased that the state finally launched its much-anticipated statewide vaccine pre-registration website on Saturday.
“Over 35,000 Marylanders have preregistered, and we have experienced no technical issues,” acting Health Secretary Dennis Schrader told the Senate Vaccine Oversight Work Group.
Senators were especially pleased to learn that the state can manage the list, targeting those most vulnerable to COVID-19 — people 75 and older — and move them to the front of the line for vaccination.
“I’m glad to hear that the preregistration site’s now been open. I think it’s an overdue but promising development, and (it’s) also positive to hear that the counties, the local health departments that have been maintaining wait lists, would be able to participate in that central preregistration process,” said state Sen. Clarence Lam, a physician representing Howard and Baltimore counties.
Schrader told the Senate panel that the state has vaccinated more than 1.9 million Marylanders, averaging 43,000 shots per day. Marylanders are registering for a vaccine online and by phone.
“If somebody calls in this afternoon and they can’t schedule an appointment, they’ll go on a waiting list and someone will call them back to schedule?” asked state Sen. Jim Rosapepe, of Prince George’s County, who expressed concern in the past about long hold times.
“Yes,” Schrader said. “We’re going to call people.”
“Perfect,” said Rosapepe, who has been critical of the state’s vaccine program. “That’s a great step in the right direction.”
Schrader also said the state has improved its vaccine distribution compared to other states, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Maryland is now ranked 19th in the nation in the number of residents vaccinated, and Maryland is above the national average for first doses, fully vaccinated and doses used,” Schrader said.
The improvements were well-received by state senators who expressed concern in past weeks when CDC data indicated that Maryland was near the bottom one-third of states in its rate of vaccination and ability to promptly distribute all doses provided by the federal government.
“Certainly some, no question, positive, positive news on several fronts,” said Senate President Bill Ferguson, of Baltimore, the chairman of the oversight group.
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