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Baltimore County to begin offering Uber rides to COVID vaccine clinics, mobile clinics for homebound residents

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. announced Friday that the jurisdiction would begin offering Uber rides for residents without transportation to get to COVID-19 vaccination appointments, as well as start providing mobile clinics for thousands in the county who are homebound.

Olszewski made the announcements while speaking at the opening day of a new vaccination clinic at the Community College of Baltimore County’s Essex campus, the county’s third clinic.

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“We want no barriers to individuals wanting the vaccine,” said Della Leister, the county’s deputy director of health, noting that she began her public health career working as a nurse for homebound clients.

Residents who have been certified by their physicians as homebound can sign up as such when they complete Baltimore County’s vaccine registration form. Leister said the county already has more than 10,000 of those applicants, who will be screened before getting contacted to schedule their vaccinations. The county health department has partnered with the Baltimore County Fire Department to travel to residents’ homes and administer vaccines.

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County residents with an appointment but lacking a means of transportation to get to it can call 311. CountyRide staff will schedule an Uber ride for the residents to get to their appointments, and once they’re vaccinated, staff at the clinics will help schedule their rides home.

The county is paying for the effort with funds from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

Baltimore County ranks ninth among Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions with 14.75% of its population having received at least one dose of vaccine. Olszewski said he expected that number to rise thanks to Friday’s clinic.

The CCBC site joins the county’s other clinics in Randallstown and at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium. The county will explore adding new clinics, Leister said, including smaller sites that might be more comfortable for residents who have been especially cautious about leaving home during the nearly yearlong pandemic.

CCBC President Sandra Kurtinitis was proud to see the school involved in vaccinating the county’s residents.

“‘Community’ is our first name,” she said. “When the county executive calls, we are right there to help in every way that we can.”

Even as the county added another distribution site, Olszewski lamented that they couldn’t be used to their full capacity. The Timonium site is capable of administering “upwards of a thousand doses an hour,” he said, but the supply of vaccine from the federal government and the allocation from the state government mean Baltimore County gets only 5,000 doses a week, he said.

“We know it’s not happening as fast as many would like,” Olszewski said. “It is certainly not as fast as I would like, but we continue to efficiently disperse the limited supply of vaccines that we do receive.

“We’re ready. We have so much capacity. As [Gov. Larry Hogan] said when he toured our mass vaccination site in Timonium last, ‘These are like Ferraris. They just need gas.’ So we’re ready for the gas.”

Asked indirectly about Hogan’s comments that Baltimore City “had gotten far more [doses] than they really were entitled to,” Olszewski said he understood that the supply was limited but all Marylanders are deserving of a vaccine if they want one.

“We know there are logistical challenges across the state and in the federal government in terms of the supply, but let me be clear: Everyone is entitled to a vaccine regardless of where they live, whether it’s Baltimore City, Baltimore County,” Olszewski said. “If you are Marylander, you should be entitled to a vaccine.”

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