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Baltimore COVID vaccine site offers only second doses due to lack of supply; just 250 shots given Wednesday

As others got their second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at Baltimore City Community College’s Liberty Heights campus Wednesday, Juan Morales was denied his first.

The 43-year-old cook at Accents Grill in the Greenspring Shopping Center in Pikesville learned that, due to a lack of supply, Baltimore City’s sole vaccination site would offer vaccines only to those who already received their first dose. He missed the email announcing the change, effective all month.

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“We’re going to wait,” said his wife, Virginia Morales, 40, a housecleaner in Owings Mills, who accompanied him. “We understand.”

They didn’t have much choice. The city’s site inoculated just 250 people with second doses Wednesday. While more vaccines are expected to become available in the coming weeks and months as supply increases, getting a shot has been a challenge for many, especially older adults, who are most at risk, and those without computers or digital fluency.

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Virginia Morales and her husband, Juan Morales, wait to speak with an official at a vaccination clinic at the Baltimore City Community College Liberty Heights campus Wednesday. He wasn't able to be inoculated because his name wasn't on the list.
Virginia Morales and her husband, Juan Morales, wait to speak with an official at a vaccination clinic at the Baltimore City Community College Liberty Heights campus Wednesday. He wasn't able to be inoculated because his name wasn't on the list. (Karl Merton Ferron/The Baltimore Sun)

The intense demand for the 10,000 doses Maryland receives each day has prompted some people who are eligible to share appointment-scheduling links with friends, family and colleagues who are not, said Dr. Letitia Dzirasa, Baltimore’s health commissioner.

That has caused appointments to be overbooked. As many as 25% of the city’s appointments scheduled for this month were mistakenly filled by people attempting to get a first dose, Dzirasa said.

Those who are eligible “would get an individualized link,” she said. “But we never broadly shared links on our website for signing up.”

Maryland’s vaccine appointment software, PrepMod, has added to the confusion by sending an automated email reminder to those who schedule appointments — even after the city health department informed them they were not eligible yet, Dzirasa said.

“Even though we send out an email communication, PrepMod will still send a reminder to individuals that they have an upcoming appointment unless they cancel it,” the city health commissioner said. “We believe people also got that follow-up email.”

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, a Democrat, called on the state Tuesday to expand access to COVID-19 vaccinations for people who live and work in the city, while the Democratic members of Maryland’s congressional delegation asked Republican Gov. Larry Hogan to improve vaccine rollout statewide.

The state is urging providers to conserve second doses to ensure people get fully vaccinated, said Dennis R. Schrader, Maryland’s acting health secretary, during a virtual state House of Delegates committee hearing Tuesday.

“We are very adamant that we should not be burning through second doses as first doses, unless the federal government suddenly opens up the floodgates and we have doses coming from everywhere,” Schrader said.

An attendant at the vaccination site referred Morales and others seeking a first dose to a preregistration site for the mass vaccination clinic the state plans to open Friday at the Baltimore Convention Center.

Firefighters, police, a pharmacist and medical technicians were among those who received vaccinations Wednesday during the city health department’s clinic in the BCCC gymnasium.

They pulled into the community college’s Druid Park Drive entrance in their vehicles, passed the guard shack, had their names checked against a list by staffers, then drove around to the rear of the buildings to park in Lot E. From there, they followed the signs up the path to the gym.

Alicia White, a 59-year-old dialysis technician at DaVita Greenspring Dialysis Center, got her second shot at BCCC Wednesday after getting her first dose Jan. 6 at the former site in Port Covington.

White, who lives in Woodlawn, has been looking forward to traveling, visiting her mother and the rest of the activities she’s been sorely missing during the pandemic. She wants to go to Hawaii.

“I’m happy this is over with,” she said.

Steve Wienner felt less emotional during his second shot than his first.

“Anyone who gets the first shot, your eyes tear up because you have a sense that life will get back to normal,” the 52-year-old pharmacist said. “The second shot is not quite that emotional feeling. It’s still a feeling of relief, but not like the first.”

Wienner, who lives in Reisterstown and owns the Mt. Vernon Pharmacy and Mt. Vernon Pharmacy at Fallsway, said nearly all of his employees have been vaccinated, which will allow them to welcome customers back inside after months of operating as curbside-only.

“This is going to allow us to open our doors,” he said. “It’s not something you can do remotely.”

Debbi Hooper, a 35-year-old emergency medical technician with Hart to Heart Nursing Services, said she was a little apprehensive about getting the vaccine. But she thought of her patients and her children, 8-year-old Rylan and 5-year-old Lucy.

“I felt guilty getting it, and I felt guilty not getting it,” she said. “We put worse things in our bodies.”

Kenneth Daughtry, who lives in Northeast Baltimore, is one of about half of the firefighters at Engine 42 on Harford Road in Lauraville who have been vaccinated so far, he said. For those who were eligible, the stick was as easy as the process — in and out.

“The needle didn’t hurt,” the 56-year-old pump operator said. “I don’t feel sore.”

Baltimore Sun reporters Emily Opilo and Hallie Miller contributed to this article.

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