2021 | Government

Counties urge Hogan to improve COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Leaders call for statewide registration system, prioritizing doses for counties

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Logo from Maryland Association of Counties

Officials from Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions are urging Gov. Larry Hogan to improve the state’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout.

The counties and Baltimore City sent the joint letter through the Maryland Association of Counties and made five requests to increase transparency, funding and efficiency. The changes would “make the process simpler, faster, and more user-friendly for residents,” they wrote.

Thirty-three officials — at least one from each jurisdiction — signed the letter. Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and County Council President Tom Hucker were among them.

A spokesman for the Hogan did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.

The first request was to release weekly vaccine allocation projections to providers sooner, and to also share the information with the public. Montgomery County health officials have repeatedly stressed the need to know the number of vaccine doses they will receive earlier than a few days before the shipment is expected.

Officials noted in the letter that last week’s notice of weekly allocations was sent on the Friday before the week of the allocation. The week before, it was sent on a Saturday at 8 p.m. Montgomery County receives its shipments on Tuesdays.

“Providers need more advance notice to plan logistics, and the public deserves to know how many doses each local provider has available,” they wrote. The current allocation plan is sent to a limited list of providers with a “warning” not to share the information with people who are not on the distribution list.

The second request expands on the first by asking the state to publish private provider allocations by distribution site to demonstrate that the counties are receiving their share of the doses.

“Weekly allocation memoranda from the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) state that allocations are based on county population, but no data is provided by location for pharmacy chains,” the letter stated. “Limited data on location is provided for hospital systems. Our residents and our local health departments want to know where doses will be administered and how many.”

The state should also be fulfilling dose requests from local health departments, before allocating any doses to private providers and state-run sites, county officials said.

They noted that local health departments have “consistently outperformed” private providers in the speed and targeting of vaccinations to vulnerable and underserved communities.

A statewide system should be established to host a “one-stop” preregistration process, to create a more efficient and organized vaccine registration process that is less confusing for residents and workers, they said.

Montgomery County and other jurisdictions have their own preregistration sites that allow eligible workers and residents to place their name on a list of eligible people who need to be vaccinated. Once enough vaccine doses are available for each group, appointments will open to those who have preregistered.

Officials said the current process, which has multiple places where residents can register, has caused residents to have a “frantic race” to register with several providers.

Lastly, officials asked Hogan to expedite the release of $400 million in federal vaccination, contact tracing and COVID-19 mitigation funds, prioritizing direct grants to local health departments.

Officials requested that Hogan meet with MACo to discuss the suggestions in the letter.

“Counties stand ready as a partner and resource for the all-important goal of vaccinating Marylanders,” they wrote.

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at briana.adhikusuma@bethesdamagazine.com.