It’s a question on the minds of many Marylanders who are eligible for the coronavirus vaccine: Should I sign up for every waitlist I can find?
When that question was posed to the state’s top health official Monday, he didn’t have an answer.
“I’d have to think about that question,” Acting Health Secretary Dennis Schrader told a panel of senators who are weighing whether to confirm him permanently for the top job.
“All of my constituents want the answer to that question,” said Sen. James Rosapepe, a Democrat representing Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties, who asked the question.
Added Senate President Bill Ferguson: “That is the one question we are getting 100 times over.”
“We’ll work on that, Mr. President, and have a good answer next week,” Schrader responded.
The state’s decentralized vaccine distribution system means that there are multiple avenues for getting the shots, including hospital systems, local health departments, a limited number of pharmacies and soon, more pharmacies and mass vaccination clinics.
It’s been confusing for many to navigate, and an unknown number of people have put their name on waitlists with multiple providers. There is no centralized system to book vaccine appointments.
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“It doesn’t sound organized to me at all,” said Sen. Ron Young, a Frederick County Democrat, who raised questions about the location of mass vaccination sites.
After the meeting, Rosapepe said he was disappointed Schrader couldn’t give guidance on the question of vaccine waitlists. Rosapepe said it’s become the top question he’s getting in his office, surpassing questions about unemployment benefits.
“It was a straight question. It wasn’t a trick question,” Rosapepe said. “I thought he might know the answer, but I was pleased that he’d say he’d get an answer.”
Ferguson created a Senate Vaccine Oversight Workgroup to meet weekly with Schrader to monitor the state’s vaccination operations. The information from the meetings will guide senators as they decide whether confirm Schrader to as state health secretary, Ferguson has said.
Schrader was named acting health secretary in December, upon the retirement of Robert Neall, and Gov. Larry Hogan has nominated him to be the permanent secretary. Hogan nominated Schrader before, but withdrew Schrader’s name in 2017 when his confirmation was stalled in the Senate.
Since then, Schrader has worked as a deputy health secretary, a position that does not require Senate confirmation.