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Baltimore mayor calls on Maryland to schedule more vaccine appointments for city residents

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott called on the state Tuesday to expand access to coronavirus vaccinations for people who live and work in the city as Maryland prepares to open its first mass vaccination site in the city.

In a letter sent to Gov. Larry Hogan early Tuesday night, Scott called on the governor to reserve daily vaccination appointments for more than 15,000 older adults who have expressed interest in a city appointment, teachers at city schools, judges and court staff, and any other eligible city residents who have struggled to get an appointment for the first dose of the vaccine.

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As of this week, the Baltimore City Health Department is distributing only second doses of the two-shot vaccine due to limited supply.

“We know that this pandemic has disproportionately affected different communities throughout our City, making existing inequities worse,” Scott wrote. “We also know that equitably distributing the vaccine is a key step in bringing the pandemic to an end.”

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In a statement released to the media along with the letter, Scott called the state’s vaccination program “uncoordinated to say the least” and was critical of the unpredictable supply of vaccines flowing into the city.

Of Hogan, Scott also requested the state provide continuing data on how many city residents are able to receive vaccinations at the state’s mass vaccination sites to be located in the city. A mass vaccination site at the Baltimore Convention Center is due to open by the end of this week. Another state-run site is planned for M&T Bank Stadium in the city.

Mike Ricci, spokesman for Hogan, said the governor has received the mayor’s letter.

“We appreciate his leadership, and we will be back in touch with him and his team about this request,” Ricci said.

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Scott’s letter did not address reports of city residents being turned away earlier Tuesday at Baltimore’s only mass vaccination site. City health officials blamed the situation on overbooking by the state’s vaccination scheduling system which they say can be overridden by sharing links to make appointments.

The scheduling system, known as PrepMod, allowed people to book appointments for first doses of the vaccine even though Baltimore stopped offering them this week. As many as 25% of the city’s appointments scheduled for this month were mistakenly filled by people attempting to get a first dose.

Baltimore is administering 500 doses per day of the vaccine. That pace has not increased since the city moved its mass vaccination site in January from its initial location in South Baltimore to Baltimore City Community College. City health officials say they are bound by the limited supply of vaccines they are receiving from the state.

Last week, Hogan was asked during an appearance in Baltimore whether he would consider allocating more doses of the vaccine to areas of the state with minority populations including Baltimore. Hogan said no.

“The state is dividing it to each jurisdiction on a pro rata basis,” he said. “This is not an issue of not enough supply in those areas. It’s about convincing people to take it.”

The vaccination of city teachers has become more urgent with the announcement of a plan to reopen some city schools by mid-February. Johns Hopkins Medicine has been vaccinating 500 city teachers each week through a partnership with Baltimore City Public Schools. At that pace, it would take five months to give both doses of the vaccine to all 10,000 city teachers.

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