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Ineligible people registering for vaccines meant for essential workers in Howard County, health agency says

People ineligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine have been signing up to be inoculated in Howard County anyways, taking appointments from first responders and healthcare workers, the local health department said.

The Howard County Health Department said the issue stems from people sharing private registration links with family, friends and colleagues so those individuals can make appointments, Howard health officials said in a Tweet Thursday afternoon.

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If a person who is not yet eligible to be inoculated signs up for an appointment, the health department said, it effectively snatches a spot from a firefighter or medic or a frontline healthcare worker, professions tapped to receive the vaccine first.

Furthermore, appointments for those who registered inappropriately won’t be honored, the department said.

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“If you received a link from a friend or colleague to register even though you did not receive notification from (Howard County Health Department), DO NOT register,” health officials urged.

The development is slowing the health department’s efforts to inoculate those eligible to receive the vaccine, the supply of which is “extremely limited” in Howard County, the department said.

The Maryland Department of Health in a statement about the development New Year’s Eve urged ineligible residents to stop registering.

“Maryland vaccination efforts are still focused on essential hospital health care workers, nursing home residents and staff and essential first responders,” spokesman Charles Gischlar said in an email. “Citizens must understand that the unauthorized use of a private registration link intended for these priority groups takes spots away from our healthcare heroes and first responders. Our cybersecurity teams are working with stakeholders to address this situation.”

Just 42,012 Marylanders, less than 1% of the state’s population, have received doses of the vaccine, according to Maryland Health Department data. The state hasn’t given more than 80% of its vaccine doses as of Wednesday.

Most of the people who have received the vaccine live in the Baltimore metro area, Howard is a part of, as defined by the state. The region also includes Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, and Harford Counties and Baltimore City.

Meanwhile, the threat of the virus looms. The state reported on New Year’s Eve almost 3,000 new cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. At least 46 more people had died from the disease over the last 24 hours, too.

Maryland reported that 5,727 died from the virus and 276,662 more had contracted it in the calendar year 2020.

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