With the COVID-19 vaccination rollout set to accelerate, the Frederick County Health Department expressed concern Friday that the vaccine supply they are currently receiving from the federal government will not be sufficient as more people become eligible to get inoculated.
Thursday evening, Gov. Larry Hogan announced that Maryland would be moving into the next phase of the vaccine rollout, Phase 1B, on Monday, making anyone 75 or older — as well as anyone living in assisted living, group homes or other congregate facilities, K-12 teachers, support staff and child care providers — eligible to get the vaccine.
That’s in addition to anyone in Phase 1A — first responders, licensed health care providers and the staff and residents at nursing homes — who wanted it and had not received it yet.
The following week, on Jan. 25, Maryland plans to move in Phase 1C, which would allow anyone 65-74 to get it, as well as essential workers, including grocery store, public transit, agriculture and manufacturing employees, Hogan said.
On the heels of the governor’s announcement came a Washington Post report Friday that the national stockpile for the required second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines was not what it was made out to be by the Trump administration and that allocations to states from the federal government would not ramp up as quickly as anticipated.
The report did say those in line for their second dose of the vaccine still should get it as scheduled since states are still receiving regular shipments.
But the revelation left health departments and hospitals across the state wondering how they would allocate future doses if the size of their shipments do not increase.
“We are concerned that the vaccine supply we are receiving locally will not be sufficient for the current interest by people in groups 1B and 1C,” said Rissah Watkins, the director of planning, assessment and communications for the Frederick County Health Department.
“We have chosen to not open appointments up until we have vaccine in hand because we do not want to promise vaccinations to people and then not be able to deliver,” Watkins said. “It is our goal to make appointments available every week for all the doses we have.”
On Friday, a long line stretched around the building at Butterfly Ridge Elementary School, where the county health department just opened a second vaccination clinic for those with appointments.
The Frederick Police Department and Frederick County Fire and Rescue were on hand to help with any traffic issues.
Many in line were 75 years old and older. The county health department gave them the opportunity ahead of the beginning of Phase 1B Monday because it wanted to make sure that all the doses it received this week were used, according to Watkins.
“The clinic was fully booked, and we had enough staff and vaccine. But today’s experience has given us more ideas of how to adjust our future clinics to be more efficient and a better experience for our community,” Watkins said. “We would like to ask our community to please only come to a vaccination clinic if you have an appointment. We are working on a call center to open next week to help people make appointments by phone. We also want our community to know that vaccine is still the limiting factor in how quickly we can vaccinate each priority group.”
On Friday night, the county health department issued a statement saying the long lines at Butterfly Ridge were partially due to technical issues with the state’s scheduling program that delayed the process and that the clinic “did not meet our expectations.” It said changes will be made.
“To those who had to wait in long lines, we appreciate your patience, and especially the assistance from Frederick County Fire and Rescue Services for providing port-o-potties and space heaters, and Frederick City and Frederick County Department of Public Works for helping with road closures and signs,” the health department’s statement read.
The county health department, in conjunction with the Frederick County Senior Services Division, will host a virtual workshop at 1 p.m. Tuesday over Zoom to give older adults and their family and friends step-by-step guidance to the online registration process for COVID-19 vaccine appointments.
Maryland has administered 195,220 first doses of the vaccine, including an all-time high of 16,805 Friday, according to the state’s online vaccine dashboard.
At Thursday evening’s news conference, Hogan said the state is far outpacing the number of first doses it receives from the federal government.
“We get 10,000 per day. We are using 16,000 per day,” Hogan said. “So, we have to make sure we get those second doses or we are in big trouble.”
The state has administered 17,493 second doses so far, including 1,653 in the last 24 hours.
It will take 3 million doses of the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines just to get Maryland’s 6 million residents their first shot.
So far, the state has received a little more than 560,000 doses, Hogan said.
“This is going to take a long time, a great deal of patience and a lot more vaccine,” he said.
Despite the concern about future supply, a Hogan spokesperson said Friday that the state will proceed with moving into the next phase of the rollout.
County Executive Jan Gardner announced the county was ready to move into the next phase of the rollout at her public information briefing Thursday morning.
“We are ready. We do have a plan in the county. We are ready to execute that plan,” she said.
Gardner did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday after concerns were raised about how quickly the vaccine supply would ramp up.
Fort Detrick begins vaccinations
Fort Detrick announced Friday that it had begun vaccinating its first responders and front-line health care workers against COVID-19.
“We all want to get back to normal and outside of social distancing, wearing masks and keeping the number of interactions to a minimum. This is the next step,” Fort Detrick Garrison Commander, Col. Dexter Nunnally, said. “It’s also an important step, and the vaccines currently available through emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are a result of the hard work of people worldwide.”