As the region emerges from the worst of the winter coronavirus surge, County Executive Steuart Pittman asked Gov. Larry Hogan in a letter last week to prioritize local health departments in vaccine allocation as his health department received a lesser supply for the second week in a row.
Pittman, who met with Hogan Thursday to discuss the priorities laid out in the letter, supported the governor’s push to engage private pharmacies, but not at the expense of local departments that have been building capacity for weeks only to have doses diverted.
“[Local health departments] exist to ensure that the public interest is served in health care,” he wrote. “They know their communities and are able to reach underserved and high-risk populations.”
Pittman also asked Hogan to commit to allocating vaccines based on population, a promise the state health department has since committed to for the counties at large, though doses may be divvied up among multiple providers.
Pittman asked Hogan to share agreements with pharmacies and other private partners with the local departments in order to better coordinate registrations and to direct $400 million in combined federal funding for COVID-19 vaccination and mitigation to local health departments instead of for-profit pharmacy chains.
In a bulletin issued Thursday, the state health department established a minimum weekly allocation going forward. Anne Arundel County, along with the other seven most populous Maryland jurisdictions, will receive a minimum of 975 vaccines a week.
It’s unclear how the decrease in available vaccines will hamper the county’s public vaccination clinics at Live! Casino & Hotel and Anne Arundel Community College, or the health department’s recent push to hire 120 new workers to help administer the shots.
Mike Ricci, a spokesman for Hogan, said after the meeting between Hogan and Pittman that the county overall will be getting about 6,500 vaccines among the health department, hospitals and various private partners.
“Local health departments have been and will remain a cornerstone of our vaccination plan, and as we open mass vaccination sites, we look forward to them helping us tackle hard-to-reach areas and underserved populations,” he said in an email.
Monday, the governor’s office released an update on vaccinations and said it would ensure that each jurisdiction receives an equitable share of vaccines by population across all local providers, including hospitals, neighborhood pharmacies, and county health departments. More than 100 active providers are listed on covidvax.maryland.gov, and Marylanders may also call 211 for assistance. Vaccinations are by appointment only.
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Beginning Friday, the state will open a series of mass vaccination sites to serve eligible residents. The first mass sites are set to open at the Baltimore Convention Center and Six Flags America in Prince George’s County. Announcements will be made as appointments become available.
Anne Arundel County continued vaccinating groups in Phase 1B on Monday, which currently includes all residents age 75 and older, residents and employees of group living facilities, workers needed to keep the government functioning, teachers and childcare workers.
Vaccinations for Phase 1A groups, mainly health care workers and first responders, are also continuing.
To sign up for vaccination, visit aacounty.org/covidvax.
More than 39,000 residents have received their first shot, and at least 8,063 residents have received their second shot, according to the county health department.
Across Maryland, more than 544,369 residents have received a first or second shot, according to the Maryland Department of Health.
As of Monday, Maryland administered roughly 64% of its doses.