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Searching for 100,000: Luminis Health system crosses a vaccine milestone in Annapolis

They were four away.

Amanda Adkins approached two men cheerfully joshing one another over the recent Lakers loss.

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“Excuse me, sir,” she said, “have you gotten your vaccine, yet?”

One had. In fact, his whole family already had been inoculated against the coronavirus. The other hadn’t.

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“Well, we’re giving out free vaccines at the church. We’ll be there until 6 p.m.,” she said before making her way up Dorsey Avenue, back toward the Mt. Olive Community Life Center in Annapolis.

As a community clinic kicked off Friday, chairs set up for people to wait 15 minutes post-vaccination sat empty. So, the vaccination team from Anne Arundel Medical Center hit the streets in Parole. Adkins flagged down neighbors in their yards who’d been bent over yard work, fixing a fishing line, unloading things from their cars.

It’s work Adkins and her colleagues have done since the beginning of the pandemic more than a year ago, going door to door in both Anne Arundel and Prince George’s Counties at first to answer people’s questions about COVID-19 and then about the vaccines to protect against it.

When the community vaccination clinic at Mt. Olive AME Church began Friday, they had given out 99,996 coronavirus vaccines across the two counties, where Luminis Health network operates both Anne Arundel Medical Center and Doctors Community Hospital.

Friday, they topped 100,000.

Ultimately, it was Carter Chris White, a community ambassador dressed in a paisley suit and light blue sunglasses, who nabbed the 100,000th vaccine recipient.

Keitarree Smith entered the community center with his two young children in tow. He’d gotten his first dose of the Moderna vaccine three months prior, but skipped the second dose after he read some articles that made him nervous to finish his inoculation.

Still, he figured, he’d need to get it eventually. Smith had been playing basketball at nearby Chambers Park when White strolled up and convinced him.

Community Life Center Event Co-ordinator Neeccie Vauls and Bishop Craig Coates, of the Fresh Start Church in Glen Burnie, discuss how to get people to come to the walk-in clinic. Luminis Health gave it's 100,000th COVID-19 vaccine shot Friday, June 4, 2021, during a community vaccine clinic held at the Mt. Olive Church Community Life Center, in Annapolis.
Community Life Center Event Co-ordinator Neeccie Vauls and Bishop Craig Coates, of the Fresh Start Church in Glen Burnie, discuss how to get people to come to the walk-in clinic. Luminis Health gave it's 100,000th COVID-19 vaccine shot Friday, June 4, 2021, during a community vaccine clinic held at the Mt. Olive Church Community Life Center, in Annapolis. (Paul W. Gillespie/Capital Gazette)

Smith waited for his 15 minutes to be up while his children ran through the grid of black chairs, munching on french fries and spicy chicken nuggets. Crabbs walked over and presented him with a $100 Visa gift card and a colorful sign noting he was the 100,000th vaccine recipient.

When vaccines became available in Maryland and across the country last December, demand widely outstripped supply. But as vaccines have become more plentiful and more accessible, the push to get 80 to 90% of adults vaccinated and defeat the coronavirus and its variants has become a game of inches.

Adkins oversees the bigger vaccination sites for Luminis, the ones that got the health network about 90,000 vaccines toward their goal of 100,000 vaccinations.

Christine Crabbs, director of community health for Luminis, has overseen mobile vaccine clinics like the one set up Friday in partnership with Whose House? God’s House, a collective of predominantly Black churches dedicated to increasing the vaccination rate in the county’s Black community.

Her team goes where it’s needed, she said. If the state or county governments identify a low vaccination rate in a particular zip code, staff spends time talking to people in that community and educating them on the risks and benefits of the available vaccines.

“It used to be sort of where we were knocking on doors, and now we have people calling us and the county’s health department calling us and saying ‘Hey Luminis, would you go to this grocery store? Hey, would you join us at the Whose House? God’s House church project?’”

Luminis recently received a $3.2 million grant from the state Health Services Cost Review Commission to support community vaccination clinics and a more permanent effort in Hyattsville, where vaccination rates are low, Crabbs said. The health network will also provide vaccinations at the Annapolis Juneteenth celebration.

The milestone was a brief moment of celebration as the staff clapped and Smith’s picture was taken. But the work quickly continued as another patient walked into the clinic, ready for the 100,001st shot.

Keitarree Smith, 19, gets his second dose of Modern vaccine, from medical assistant Amanda Sewell, making him the 100,000th shot. Luminis Health gave it's 100,000th COVID-19 vaccine shot Friday, June 4, 2021, during a community vaccine clinic held at the Mt. Olive Church Community Life Center, in Annapolis.
Keitarree Smith, 19, gets his second dose of Modern vaccine, from medical assistant Amanda Sewell, making him the 100,000th shot. Luminis Health gave it's 100,000th COVID-19 vaccine shot Friday, June 4, 2021, during a community vaccine clinic held at the Mt. Olive Church Community Life Center, in Annapolis. (Paul W. Gillespie/Capital Gazette)
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