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Our View: ‘Irresponsible’ to make the next group eligible with so many older adults yet to be vaccinated | COMMENTARY

Elected officials are getting angry calls. Health department personnel, too. Thousands of Carroll countians are frustrated, confused and upset that they were in one of the first groups eligible to receive the COVID-19, vaccine yet Maryland has moved past them to the next group.

They have good reason for their feelings. County Health Officer Ed Singer called it “irresponsible” that Maryland moved on to group 1C of its vaccine distribution plan last week while so many in 1A and 1B have yet to be vaccinated.

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“I’m hearing the governor saying he wants to get more vaccine in more arms — we want to get more vaccine in the right arms,” Singer said during Thursday’s meeting of the Board of Commissioners.

It’s a math problem, with the emphasis on problem. Singer has said the Carroll County Health Department requests 3,000 doses of vaccine per week from the state and could administer far more than that. But just 4,100 doses of the vaccine were received between Dec. 27 and Jan. 23 and all were administered. Another 1,400 were received last week, 736 were administered through Wednesday and Singer said the rest would be in people’s arms by Saturday. Only 800 are expected this week.

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That’s 6,300 doses. Problem is, there are about 16,000 Carroll countians in 1A, consisting of health care workers, first responders and nursing home residents and staff. There are about 19,000 Carroll countians in 1B, consisting of those 75 or older, those who work in education and those in assisted living and other congregate settings.

Many of the health care workers are vaccinated by their employees — Carroll Hospital has given out 2,384 first doses and 577 second doses. And pharmacies are responsible for vaccinating the elder care facilities. But the problem should be obvious.

According to the health department, 14,260 Carroll countians had been vaccinated by midweek. That’s not even half of those in 1A and 1B. Yet Maryland is on to 1C, allowing certain pharmacies to distribute to anyone eligible and opening up mass vaccination clinics. Try explaining to the thousands of older adults who are unable to drive to Baltimore why so many just jumped them in line.

“As they expand this out to pharmacies and if they want to have mass vaccination sites, the state’s not getting more vaccine,” Singer said.

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Thus, Carroll’s supply for this week gets cut, demand is higher than ever and the wait time grows for many Carroll residents who are far more vulnerable than the agriculture, manufacturing and postal service employees in 1C who are now eligible. Nothing against those essential workers. They should be able to receive the vaccine. Everyone should. Blame who you want for the lack of available vaccine, but the fact is, there isn’t nearly enough.

And Singer made the key point Thursday.

“The people who are dying from this are largely in that 75-plus age group,” he said. “We don’t have enough vaccine to reach the targeted populations and ethically we should stick with 1B.”

Indeed. And we would urge pharmacies to do the same. They are going to play a major role in getting COVID-19 vaccine into the arms of the general public, as they do with flu vaccine. But right now, every dose should go to those in 1A or 1B who want it.

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