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Coronavirus

Maryland manufacturers push for mass COVID-19 vaccination sites for mission-critical workers

Maryland manufacturers are pushing for state health officials to set up COVID-19 mass vaccination sites for about 3,000 “critical” workers across a range of industries.

When it’s their turn to be inoculated, “critical” factory workers would be able to register for and get vaccines more efficiently if they were directed to designated sites on specific days, says a coalition of more than 60 manufacturers.

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The manufacturers, whose workers fall into the state’s recently opened 1C eligibility phase, say they are working with the state health department to have such sites ready to go after workers in earlier phases, including health workers and teachers, can be get vaccinated.

The group says it would like mass vaccination sites to be available to more than 3,000 essential workers who are critical to the operations of their factories and who have indicated they will take the vaccine — out of a total of 8,000 total manufacturing workers at the 60 companies.

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“We’re trying to provide a streamlined, mass inoculation approach as opposed to all our thousands and thousands trying to type into the internet and get a slot,” said Drew Greenblatt, president of Marlin Steel Wire Products in Baltimore and a leader of the coalition.

Workers at the companies make goods ranging from food to equipment for hospitals and the military. Most have fewer than 100 workers, though some larger companies include chemical maker W.R. Grace & Co., with 800 critical workers; Bakery Express, with 245; and Kensington Glass, with 200.

“We want to keep these employees healthy to keep essential processes and products rolling along,” Greenblatt said. “We’re tying to be efficient.”

Maryland, like other states, has faced shortages since the first two authorized vaccines in the United States became available in December, with demand far outpacing supply.

Both Pfizer/BioNTech’s and Moderna’s vaccines require two doses. The state is currently is getting about 10,000 does per day for the more than 2 million people who are currently eligible in Phase 1, said Charles Gischlar, a health department spokesman.

“Our focus right now is on our most vulnerable residents, including residents 65 and over,” Gischlar said in an email Monday.

But, he said, “we are beginning to plan for when we are able to vaccinate manufacturing workers on a wider scale.”

Coalition members spoke via conference call Monday afternoon with representatives of Gov. Larry Hogan’s office. Both the governor’s office and the state Commerce Department have supported efforts to plan to vaccinate manufacturing workers, Greenblatt said.

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“We explored the timing to do mass inoculation — but the state does not have clarity from the federal government’s supply forecast — no clarity for vaccine availability, and because of this they cannot commit to a certain date,” Greenblatt said after Monday’s call.

Officials hope supplies will begin to increase soon, he said.

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The manufacturers are not pushing for access before health workers, teachers or the elderly, but “when our time is called, we want to be organized,” Greenblatt said.

After discussions with Commerce Secretary Kelly M. Schulz, the coalition surveyed the 60 companies to more narrowly target mission-critical workers who actually would get the vaccine. They arrived at 3,000 workers, out of a total 8,000, that would be a more manageable number for a mass vaccination program, Greenblatt said.

He said those workers are geographically and racially diverse, and they include workers who may have difficulty navigating the numerous websites to register for appointments.

“The concern is we make this so complex, they won’t sign up and won’t get vaccinated, and we could have outbreaks in our factories,” Greenblatt said.

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The coalition has discussed with the governor’s office the possibility of offering mass inoculations at facilities that are currently in use for that purpose, including Baltimore Convention Center and Six Flags America in Prince George’s County.

A site at M&T Bank Stadium is expected to open later this month, while others, in Southern Maryland, Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore, are on the way.

Baltimore Sun reporter Hallie Miller contributed to this article.


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