Every week, thousands of emails and phone calls pour into the office of County Executive Jan Gardner with some variation of the same question: When can I get my vaccine?
Gardner tries to answer as many of them as she can. But the volume far exceeds the amount of time she can devote to the effort.
Dinner gets pushed later into the night, and the weekend catch-up folder only seems to be gaining volume, not losing it, Gardner said. On Wednesday, she was able to squeeze in her first walk of the week for some exercise and a brief respite.
The great frustration she and everyone are feeling is there are no clear answers at the moment, only promises and hope for things to come. The vaccine supply is very limited right now, and there are far more people available to receive it than available doses.
So, when someone asks Gardner — “When can I get my vaccine?” — the honest answer in most cases is that she simply does not know.
“I got [an email] this morning from a lady who said she was up at 4 o’clock in the morning trying to get [online] with CVS. I am going to call her because CVS doesn’t have anything for her,” said Gardner, referring to one of the two pharmacies that is federally contracted to administer vaccines in nursing homes.
“She is just desperate to get a vaccine,” Gardner said. “She said she was just filled with anxiety.”
Right now, the Frederick County Health Department is vaccinating anyone in Phase 1A — first responders and licensed health care providers — and anyone 75 and older by appointment only.
There are millions of other people across the state eligible to receive the vaccine in Phase 1B — those living in assisted living, group homes and other congregate settings, K-12 teachers and child care providers — and 1C, which is anyone 65-74 and essential workers at grocery stores, public transit and manufacturing companies.
But the county is proceeding more slowly with its vaccination effort due to the limited supply.
So far, the county health department has received 10,850 doses of vaccine and will have administered all of them by the end of the week, barring any appointment no-shows or cancellations.
Gardner and Dr. Barbara Brookmyer, the county health officer, said that no doses are being held back and none have been wasted so far.
According to the Maryland Department of Health’s online vaccine dashboard, 17,885 first doses of the two-dose coronavirus vaccine from manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna have been administered into the arms of recipients so far in Frederick County. Meanwhile, 2,772 in the county have been fully inoculated against the virus by receiving the second dose of the shot.
The numbers include the doses being administered by Frederick Health Hospital and the county health department and potentially some of the doses being administered in nursing homes by CVS and Walgreens, though that is unclear. Gardner and Brookmyer believe the number of people who have been vaccinated in Frederick County is higher than what is being reported because they aren’t sure the numbers from the pharmacies are being reflected in the total.
The county health department has set up a call center to help people without a computer or internet access set up vaccine appointments, and created an online preregistration system for anyone interested in getting the vaccine.
Filling out the vaccine interest form does not get you an appointment. But it does mean you will be notified by the county when you become eligible to set up an appointment.
So far, 33,747 in the county have filled out the form.
“What’s important, I think, to point out is that if you preregister, that puts you on the waiting list. I don’t think everybody really understands that,” Brookmyer said. “I know on social media we’ve had to answer that question a couple of times.”
Despite the limited supply, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) reported that more than 30,000 doses of vaccine were administered Wednesday across Maryland, bringing the total number to nearly 450,000 in a state of 6 million people.
Hogan said the state’s daily average for doses administered over the past seven days is 22,135, which is a 64 percent increase over the last two weeks.
“While the spread of the vaccinations continues to increase, and our distribution network continues to expand, our supply from the federal government remains extremely limited,” Hogan said in a prepared statement. “I ask Marylanders to remain patient with providers as we work with the Biden administration to secure more doses for the state.”
This week, the county health department received 3,250 first doses, which is by far its largest shipment to date of the vaccine. But the size of future shipments the health department receives in the coming weeks is likely to be less unless production significantly ramps up.
More providers are coming online, including the Giant supermarket pharmacy on Kingfisher Drive, and everyone will be pulling from the same allotment the federal government designates for Frederick.
Through the emails and phone calls she receives, Gardner said she is often asked why she doesn’t set up more clinics to help the process move faster.
“That isn’t the issue,” she said. “The issue is no vaccine.”