The Anne Arundel County Council has been offered coronavirus vaccines under the “continuity of government” provision of the rollout, but not all councilmembers intend to be inoculated now.
The council hasn’t met in chambers since March, and some members say because they are not currently public-facing, they should allow seniors and residents with high-risk health conditions go first.
Council Chair Sarah Lacey, D-Jessup, jumped at the opportunity. She was scheduled to receive her first dose Monday, but the clinic was canceled because of a storm that dropped up to 4 inches of snow on parts of the county. Though she opted to be vaccinated, she said she respects other members’ decision to wait.
“I have from the beginning hoped for a vaccine and I think it is a medical miracle that we have one in such a short time,” Lacey said. “I think it’s good for everyone, including people whose turn is later on. If I’m vaccinated, I’m less likely to transmit it.”
The county is not alone in offering government officials a vaccination.
State health officials offered the vaccine to state lawmakers during the General Assembly session in Annapolis, and Gov. Larry Hogan and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks have been vaccinated.
And essential government personnel including police officers, firefighters and others have been offered the vaccine.
Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman reached out to Lacey in mid-January when the county moved into vaccination stage 1B offering to vaccinate the council, according to an email shared with The Capital.
“I’d like to discuss vaccinating members of the Council who are interested in getting it. We’re focusing on legislators and staff who have public facing duties or are unable to telework,” Kalyanaraman wrote.
He provided three options, including allowing councilmembers and staff to schedule appointments directly, allowing them to pre-register and be sent a link in the future, or setting up a vaccination clinic for the whole group.
Kalyanaraman advised against setting up a vaccination clinic and inoculating everyone at the same time because of the risk of side effects.
The offer comes as Anne Arundel County has vaccinated nearly 48,000 people, and as county officials have pressed on the state to streamline doses to county health departments rather than private-sector pharmacies.
Phase 1B includes residents who are older than 75, educators, residents of congregate care facilities and child care workers. Though County Executive Steuart Pittman could qualify to be vaccinated now under the continuity of government label, he said Tuesday that he would wait until after teachers could be vaccinated.
He said he wasn’t sure when other members of his staff who are also essential for the continuity of government would be vaccinated. Spokesperson for the City of Annapolis said neither Mayor Gavin Buckley or any of the City Councilmembers have vaccination appointments under the continuity of government label at this time.
Health care workers, public health staff, nursing home staff and residents, first responders, judiciary and correctional facility staff and residents who were part of phase 1A are all still eligible to be vaccinated.
Councilwoman Amanda Fiedler, R-Arnold, said it makes sense that the council qualifies under the continuity of government label. Each council district is staffed by one representative and one staff member. If one or both of those people fell seriously ill, it could impact the services to the thousands of people that they represent.
She said she respects everyone else’s decision on when to be vaccinated, she plans to wait.
“(I) look forward to a date in the future when I can roll up my sleeve and get my first shot. I do not expect this time to come anytime soon. I’m a healthy individual taking personal responsibility for my activity within the community and within our household,” Fiedler wrote on Facebook. “I welcome the opportunity to lead by example, but not if it means myself over you.”
Also on Facebook, Councilman Nathan Volke, R-Pasadena, wrote that he had received messages from constituents who were struggling to secure appointments despite having high-risk health conditions or being in their 60s.
“Why should we get special treatment and be able to jump the line before so many of our constituents who are at a far greater risk?” Volke wrote. “They should have access to the vaccine before anyone who is young and healthy in elected office.”
He did not signal whether he would be interested in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine later on and could not be reached immediately for comment.
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Councilwoman Allison Pickard, D-Glen Burnie, said that she seriously considered signing up to be vaccinated now, but ultimately decided against it because she isn’t currently public-facing and has the ability to keep herself safe.
Councilman Andrew Pruski, D-Gambrills, who fell ill with COVID-19 in September, has declined the vaccine from the county because he will get it through his employer. He encouraged everyone who is eligible for the vaccine to get it.
Councilwoman Lisa Brannigan Rodvien, D-Annapolis, will be vaccinated on Thursday. She signed up when the offer became available, and has since taken her 78-year-old mother Joan Brannigan to be vaccinated at the Live! Casino clinic.
Jessica Haire, R-Edgewater, said she’s not decided whether to take the vaccine during the continuity of government phase. In a message to The Capital, Haire said she planned to speak with Kalyanaraman about the vaccine rollout and would consult her doctor about health issues that could impact how she would react to the vaccine.