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More than 80% of vaccines on hand in Maryland not administered

Less than a fifth of the coronavirus vaccine doses allocated so far to Maryland have made their way into the arms of health care workers and vulnerable nursing home residents, according to federal and state government data.

More than 80% of the 191,075 doses from the initial allocations of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines had not yet been administered Wednesday.

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As of Wednesday morning, 36,669 people had had their first shots in Maryland, meaning that only 19.2% of the state’s vaccine supply had been used since vaccinations began Dec. 14 in the state.

Maryland was listed as the worst for vaccine rollout among states evaluated in a report published by Bloomberg Tuesday. Using Monday’s vaccination data, Bloomberg calculated Maryland’s use of the vaccine on hand at just 10.9%.

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Nationally, 19.3% of the initial allocations of the vaccines had been used as of Monday, according to Bloomberg’s calculation.

The rollout of vaccines has been much slower than expected.

Earlier this month, officials with President Donald Trump’s administration said they planned to have 20 million doses of the vaccine distributed by the end of the year. But according to data provided by the Centers for Disease Control, just over 11.4 million doses have been distributed and only 2.1 million people have received their first dose.

The population of the United States is about 330 million, of which 6 million live in Maryland.

President-Elect Joe Biden said Tuesday that at the current pace, “it’s gonna take years, not months, to vaccinate the American people.”

Mike Ricci, a spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan, said Maryland has accelerated the pace of vaccinations. Wednesday morning’s report of vaccinations was more than 8,000 higher than the day before, the single-biggest increase yet. And due to lags in reporting, the number might actually be higher, Ricci said.

The state is distributing vaccines under Phase 1A of its vaccination plan, with shot clinics in place in hospitals, nursing homes and local health departments. Subsequent phases call for vaccinating essential workers, prison and jail inmates and guards, and people vulnerable to complications from the coronavirus. The general public won’t be vaccinated until there is widespread availability of the vaccines.

Charles Gischlar, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Health, said the state agency expects all front-line hospital workers to be given their first dose with the arrival of this week’s allotment, a crucial step toward completing Phase 1A.

“Our hospitals, pharmacies, and local health departments are pushing the vaccine out as fast as they can,” Gischlar said in an email. “The vaccination numbers will change from day-to-day as more federal allocations arrive in the state and are administered.”

In an interview Wednesday on CBS, Hogan spoke generally of the need to speed up the vaccination effort. The Republican governor said there is no need to “point fingers” and that all levels of government and the private sector need to work together.

“We’ve now in our state gotten them to every single hospital, every single nursing home and every single local health department, who now has to actually get the people organized and get the vaccinations into people’s arms,” Hogan said. “But there’s no question that we all need to be ramping up if we’re going to get this enormous job done across the country.”

Hogan said the federal government has provided fewer vaccine doses than promised and offered little logistical support to states.

“The states came up with their own plans and it included sending these from the federal government directly to the hospitals and the nursing homes,” Hogan said. “And they’re having a little bit of time getting ramped up as well, because it’s a massive undertaking ... It’s not just sticking needles in arms. There’s a lot of moving parts. And I think nobody is quite performing at the top capacity and we’ve all got to work together to ramp it up.”

Hogan visited a Baltimore County nursing home last week to observe residents being vaccinated, and he has publicized vaccination programs at hospitals, nursing homes and fire departments on his social media accounts.

The governor, who is 64 and a cancer survivor, has not been vaccinated. He has said he will get the vaccine publicly, but that he will wait for his turn.

In Anne Arundel County, health officer Nilesh Kalyanaraman said vaccinations at county hospitals are proceeding at a “fairly rapid clip.”

The county health department stood up a mass vaccination clinic for health workers and first responders Wednesday morning in Glen Burnie. Kalyanaraman was among those to receive a first dose.

But progress at long-term care facilities, where elderly county residents have been particularly hard hit with infections, is more opaque. The county, like the rest of Maryland, is relying on Walgreens and CVS to vaccinate residents of nursing homes and retirement communities, but the health department does not have a clear picture of how many shots made it to arms in these facilities.

“That’s a question we’re asking,” Kalyanaraman said. “We’re trying to get information on the numbers they’ve vaccinated and we don’t have that yet.”

Officials with both pharmacies said vaccination efforts are under way at nursing homes and long-term care facilities, but they declined to offer details about their Maryland operations. Gischlar from the state health department declined to comment on the reporting being done by CVS and Walgreens.

Budget constraints exacerbate the problem for local health departments. Without additional funding for vaccination efforts, the health department has been strained by administering the vaccines, testing residents for the virus, planning to prevent hospital overload and educating the public about the virus.

“We’re doing it,” Kalyanaraman said, “but it’s stretching an already stretched health department.”

Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby, a Democrat, said the data on the slow rollout of the vaccines should be a “wake-up call to move with speed and urgency.”

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“We need to embrace technology and use data to distribute this vaccine equitably, efficiently and effectively,” Mosby said in a statement. “We must work together at all levels of government to protect our communities and, ultimately, our country. This is a problem of a lifetime and it is our duty to collectively solve it.”

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Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said in a statement the city wants to ensure safe, fast and effective vaccine distribution and plans on ramping up efforts in the next few weeks.

Baltimore Sun reporter Hallie Miller and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

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