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Maryland lacks manpower to give vaccinations | READER COMMENTARY

In this photo provided by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, clinical research coordinator Tammy Lewis-McCauley administers an injection to Katelyn Evans, a trial participant, as part of the hospital’s clinical trial of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. (Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center via AP)
In this photo provided by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, clinical research coordinator Tammy Lewis-McCauley administers an injection to Katelyn Evans, a trial participant, as part of the hospital’s clinical trial of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. (Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center via AP) (AP)

Through Gov. Larry Hogan’s leadership, Maryland has been one of the most proactive, innovative states in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The recent of the state’s new two-phase vaccination plan outlines many positive next steps (“Maryland plans 2-phase distribution plan for coronavirus vaccine once it’s available,” Oct. 20). However, the plan does not address a major hurdle to effective mass vaccination: We don’t have a large enough workforce to give the shots.

Hoping to rely on already-overworked pharmacists, private practice doctors and county officials is somewhat wishful thinking. Maryland must continue to be a leader and act now to strengthen its distribution channels by recruiting the thousands of medical and other students across the state who are trained to vaccinate.

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There are examples of other states tapping into students in pharmacy, nursing, medicine and physician assistant programs to fill gaps in their flu and childhood immunization networks. In California, for instance, supervised PA and medical students have participated together in the Stanford Flu Crew since 2001. Closer to home, students and faculty at the Notre Dame of Maryland University School of Pharmacy hold an annual flu shot clinic and are now collaborating with the Baltimore Department of Health on its flu vaccination initiative.

Every jurisdiction in the state should set up these types of partnerships and secure the extra hands they’ll need to meet the unprecedented demand for the COVID-19 vaccine, especially in communities with limited access to health care. This model works, it’s safe, and it’s cost-effective. It is also absent from government-led vaccine distribution plans at all levels.

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Last March, Governor Hogan used his executive power to expand the pool of available health care workers on the front lines. We appeal to him to use his authority once again and allow these skilled students to serve their communities and their country.

Robert A. Cain, Bethesda

The writer is president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine.

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