3 takeaways from this week’s Maryland Senate Vaccine Oversight Work Group meeting

Amid Maryland’s coronavirus vaccine rollout, state senators are holding weekly meetings with Dennis R. Schrader, the acting health secretary, to assess the speed, equity and efficiency of getting shots into arms.

Here are three main takeaways from Monday afternoon’s virtual meeting.


Marylanders should register multiple times and with multiple providers until something sticks

After analyzing the state’s appointment registration process, Schrader said that people should sign up for vaccinations multiple times and at multiple sites while supply remains low.

He said people who do get called up for appointments should then remove their names from other registration lists.


Last week, Schrader said the Maryland Department of Health did not have a defined policy about registering for multiple appointments. His comments on Monday came as appointments remain scarce and frustratingly difficult to come by, especially for older adults, those without computers and people lacking digital skills.

Some senators said registering multiple times for an appointment creates unnecessary confusion for their constituents.

“It’s not only inconvenient, it’s inadequate to not have a more unified way to sign up,” Maryland Sen. Clarence Lam, a Democrat and a physician, said. “Why do Marylanders need to ... get on different waiting lists just to be able to get themselves in line? Why not a single line?”

Schrader defended the process, saying that creating a single website creates too much risk should the site fail. He also said this process is working, and that the state is administering as many as 22,000 shots a day on average.

Schrader touts mass vaccination sites as early successes

Two mass vaccination sites for the public opened last week — one at the Baltimore Convention Center, and one at Six Flags America in Prince George’s County.

Those sites are receiving about 14,000 doses per week for now. In the coming weeks, the state will oversee a total of six mass vaccination sites, Schrader said, and supply is expected to exponentially grow.

He also said some 12,000 appointments at Six Flags America were booked in about 20 minutes.

“Our numbers suggest that we’re getting shots accomplished,” Schrader said. “We’re going to grow the mass sites.”

In response to questioning, Schrader said the state was unlikely to open another mass site in Montgomery County, since many residents who had signed up for the Prince George’s County site had signaled a willingness and ability to commute there. The amusement park site could eventually accommodate people who live or work near Washington, D.C., Schrader said.

A mass vaccination site already has been planned at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. The Timonium fairgrounds, the home of the Baltimore County Health Department’s clinic, might eventually expand into a state-run mass vaccination site once vaccine supply expands, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Monday.

As supply increases, health departments expected to receive less allocation

Maryland Sen. Ron Young, a Democrat who represents Frederick County, asked Schrader whether the mass vaccination sites were taking doses away from local health departments, which have been administering shots at more efficient rates than all other state immunizers.

Schrader said Maryland’s weekly allocation from the federal government had increased from about 72,000 doses per week to about 88,000 now. The difference, he said, is being used for the mass vaccination sites.

He added that local health departments will ultimately focus on vaccinating the state’s most vulnerable residents while pharmacies, retailers and other providers cover the general population.

Sen. Addie Eckardt, a Republican who represents parts of Caroline, Dorchester, Talbot, and Wicomico counties, said health departments’ allocation should remain consistent for now. Her counties have been guaranteed weekly allotments of 300 doses per week, a significant decrease from previous weeks.

“I understand you’re going to have the health departments do the most vulnerable [once supply increases],” Eckardt said. “But we’re not there, yet.”

Recommended on Baltimore Sun