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Our View: State vaccination plan not great for Carroll County, but residents have little choice but to utilize it | COMMENTARY

On Tuesday, a few hours before Gov. Larry Hogan announced the state would soon launch a COVID-19 mass vaccination site in Charles County and that similar sites on the Eastern Shore and in Western Maryland will be opened within “the coming weeks,” the Carroll County commissioners lamented the way vaccine distribution in the state is making it difficult on the likes of this county’s 75-over population.

“I am still not convinced that it is in Carroll County’s best interest, the way it’s being distributed,” President Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, said during Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners meeting. “They are continuing to use the regional centers and pharmacies, which are good things, but they’re not as good for those that are vulnerable and getting sick.”

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We agree. So did Commissioner Stephen Wantz. But we also agree with what Wantz said when detailing the talks elected and health officials from Carroll have had with state officials: “We haven’t gotten anywhere with that and I don’t think that we will.”

With thousands of Carroll countians over 75 — and too many educators expected to interact with unvaccinated students — who’ve yet to receive a first dose, Carroll residents will need to bite the bullet, make appointments through the state’s website and find transportation to Six Flags America in Prince George’s County or the Baltimore Convention Center or M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

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Those sites aren’t nearly convenient for an 80-year-old in Hampstead or an immunocompromised teacher in Taneytown as a clinic at a local senior center or high school. But they might provide the timeliest solution.

The philosophical shift by the state should not have come as a surprise. As vaccine distribution was working well in other states, Maryland’s rollout lagged and some of the criticism centered on ceding too much control to local leaders. On Jan. 25, the Brookings Institution published an article noting that wealthy, educated Maryland “has done a substandard job of delivering inoculations, while the poor and less educated state — West Virginia — is among the nation’s leaders.” The article posited that one of the reasons for West Virginia’s success was decisions being made at the state level while in Maryland, “issues have been left to its counties.”

The Carroll County Health Department received, on average, 1,433 doses of vaccine from the state in the three weeks prior to Jan. 25 and an average of 1,000 since. Carroll remains in Phase 1B, still seeking to vaccinate those in that group (over 75, educators) long after the state opened things up to Phase 1C’s much larger population that includes those 65-over as well as agriculture, manufacturing and postal workers (about 25,000 in Carroll).

Carroll’s health department seems to have been efficient with what little vaccine it has received. Heading into this week, data shows 8,500 first doses received from the state and 8,699 first doses administered (extra doses can sometimes be extracted from vials). It’s fair to wonder what kind of shape Carroll might be in had the health department been receiving the 3,000 doses it requests each week rather than having so much vaccine shipped to places that aren’t accessible for many Carroll citizens.

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“I still don’t get that the state continues to want to put all of its eggs in the basket of mass vaccination sites,” Wantz said.

We don’t either. But that’s not going to change. So we urge Carroll countians who have been unable to make an appointment locally to put in the time needed to make one at the most convenient mass vaccination site, even if it means driving an hour, even if it means enlisting family and friends to help. Getting the vaccine, no matter how or where, is better than continuing the waiting game.

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