Nearly three dozen county leaders from across Maryland have sent a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan, expressing their frustration and concern about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and offering five solutions to help improve the process.

The letter, dated Feb. 8, was signed by 33 county leaders from 22 of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions. The only counties not represented were Allegany and Calvert. It includes the signatures of Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner (D) and Frederick County Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer (D).

Maryland is currently in Phase 1C of its vaccine rollout, which means that roughly 2.1 million state residents are eligible to receive the vaccine, including anyone 65 and over, first responders, licensed health care providers, residents of nursing homes, assisted living and other congregate facilities and employees in essential-service industries.

However, fewer than a million doses of the two-shot vaccine from drug manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna have been distributed across a state of 6 million people so far by the federal government, and just over 700,000 have been administered.

A spokesperson for Hogan did not immediately respond to questions about the letter. The governor has said in previous public remarks that he was encouraged to accelerate the rollout and expand vaccine eligibility by federal officials and county leaders across the state despite the limited supply of vaccine that he had been warning about for weeks.

“First, it’s like, ‘You are going too slow.’ [Then], ‘You are going too fast,’” Hogan said during a news conference about the vaccine on Jan. 26.

In the past week, at Hogan’s direction, the state has opened mass vaccination centers at the Baltimore Convention Center and the Six Flags America amusement park in Prince George’s County.

However, as more mass vaccination sites and private vaccination clinics come online, county leaders, such as Gardner, have expressed concern that future shipments to public-sector distributors like the Frederick County Health Department and Frederick Health Hospital will have a reduced number of doses as a result.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the county health department had not yet received its shipment of vaccine for the week. Officials were hopeful it would arrive on Wednesday so the department can make appointments for the three vaccination sites it is currently running.

Due to the limited supply, the county health department has only been vaccinating people in Phase 1A — first responders and licensed health care providers — as well as anyone 75 and older and a select number of educators per week who fall under the 1B category of the rollout.

“We are ready to distribute more vaccine doses, but the problem is we have less vaccine in recent weeks,” Gardner said in an email to the News-Post Tuesday afternoon.

Gardner said the county’s public-health sector (the health department, the hospital and community action agency) have been collectively receiving about 3,000 first doses of vaccine per week, and this week it was scheduled to receive 2,100.

“This would suggest that about 900 doses are going elsewhere,” she said. “We only have one private sector pharmacy at this point distributing vaccine, which is the Giant Pharmacy on Kingfisher [Drive]. While we are not sure of their allocation of vaccine because it is not reported to us, we thought it was about 400 doses.”

Gardner continued, “I am very concerned with the apparent decrease in our total county allocation. While I am actively advocating for more, as are other counties, it appears there is a reallocation of doses to mass vaccination sites and new private sector partners. It is not transparent, so it is hard to be certain.”

In their letter to Hogan, the county leaders urged the governor to be more transparent about vaccine distribution.

They encouraged Hogan to share vaccine allocation projections with the public and release them sooner, demonstrate the counties are receiving their share of doses by publishing private provider allocations by distribution site, fulfill local health department weekly requests before allocating doses to private providers or state sites, allow local health departments to operate one-stop pre-registration or create a statewide system and expedite the release of $400 million in federal vaccination, testing, contact tracing and COVID mitigation funds to help local health departments.

The letter concludes, “Counties stand ready as a partner and resource for the all-important goal of vaccinating Marylanders. We thank you for your consideration of these suggestions and invite you to engage with the Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) on our behalf to discuss these suggestions further.”

Gardner shared part of an email she received from a constituent that stated, “All centers in the county, including Frederick Health, should be under one registry, open to all and advancing through the eligibility categories at the same rate.”

According to the state’s online vaccine dashboard, 920,475 doses of vaccine have been distributed across Maryland by the federal government. Of those, 727,828 have been administered into arms. That includes 558,838 first doses and 168,990 second doses.

In Frederick County, 26,870 first doses have been administered, and 6,466 second doses have been put into arms, according to the state.

“Some of these challenges will be cured with more vaccine,” Gardner said. “However, we still need to collectively focus on streamlining the process and to eliminate the confusion that exists with encouraging people to sign up for vaccine at multiple locations.”

Follow Greg Swatek on Twitter: @greg_swatek

(14) comments

vodalone

Hogan blew whatever chance he had at a 2024 presidential run with the vaccine rollout.

DickD

The County and the State have been negligent from the start. They should have allowed all to sign up and sorted them by groups. No, what they did is say call me if you can and the phone numbers are so limited that some had to spend hours to sign up. Now, more confusion as the State diverts vaccine to other sites that will not necessarily go by the established requirements. Why doesn't Jan step in and stop all vaccine goes to the Health Department first and then the County can send the surplus to places like Brunswick and drug stores. We need better organization!

FrederickFan

Why in the world do you think Jan can over rule the Governor. The state gets all the vaccine from the feds so the state, read that as Governor, is in charge. Interesting to note that all the rural counties are equally upset so this is not a political issue - Republican and Dem elected officials are all upset.

Business Owner

I want to know why Frederick County's covid cases are so high relative to Howard County -- despite a much higher population density in HoCo. Why can't the Frederick News Post looking into that?

Aslan19

More complaining by Democrats who aren't being allowed to control stuff. Stop whining. 🙄

Comment deleted.
Fredginrickey

[thumbup]

Comment deleted.
DickD

[thumbup]

FrederickFan

Actual most of the people who signed the letter are elected Republicans. Try reading the letter.

Comment deleted.
snallygaster

As of today's reported vaccination numbers, Maryland is #21 in terms of number of doses and #38 in per capita doses. Yes, we should be doing better, but we're not the state with the lowest vaccination rate.

Comment deleted.
rogy

Geez Greg. If you're going to make up statistics, at least cite some fake source so you sound slightly credible. Maryland is actually right about in the dead center of all states for number of vaccinations per capita. Actual credible source: https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/map-covid-19-vaccination-tracker-across-u-s-n1252085.

FrederickFan

Hogan has really failed with the vaccine roll out. His desire for a photo op at a mass vaccine site came at the expense of existing health department sites. He hopes everyone complains to the locals when he is busy taking away their vaccine.

KellyAlzan

Need this straighten out so that our office staff can return to work at the office. What does government know about planning and organizing?

TomWheatley

Sounds like someone can't do math per the number of vaccines and the people in each of the Phases. Did we get everyone in Phase 1A, 1B, etc before going to Phase 1C? And why tell people in Phase 1C so prematurely?

Or perhaps the vaccines are indeed going to areas of higher risk? Too many questions and no answers.

sevenstones1000

These “mass inoculation” events are just PR stunts. They strip vaccine from the county health departments. The problem is not a lack of places to receive the vaccine, the problem is the lack of vaccine.

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