Vaccine oversight committee questions state’s rollout process

As Maryland inches towards the goal of fully vaccinating its population, questions continue to fester about how the COVID-19 vaccination is being distributed.


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Acting Secretary of Maryland Department of Health Dennis R. Schrader fielded dozens of questions from senators at the Senate Vaccine Oversight Workgroup meeting Monday that boiled down to two basic issues: Where are the vaccines and when will residents expect to see them?

All who spoke in the meeting agreed that the state’s new pre-registration site is a step in the right direction in terms of expediting the vaccination process. Senator Bill Ferguson, chair of the workgroup, called the site “robust.”

Though Schrader pointed out that Maryland is moving in the right direction in terms of percentage of the population vaccinated compared to other states, senators questioned equitable distribution in terms of both age and race.

President Biden declared that all people should be eligible to get a vaccine by May 1. But will all older residents have been vaccinated by that date? several senators asked Schrader. Though Sen. Clarence Lam was glad to hear about the positive developments, he expressed concerns that older residents would fall behind after vaccinations were open to all.

“With President Biden opening up the supply to everyone May 1, how will you be sure that everyone over [a certain age] can get a vaccine? The older people will always lose out to the younger ones. We don’t want to leave the older people out in this kind of constant ‘Hunger Games.’”

Schrader countered that fair distribution is the whole idea behind the pre-registration.

“If someone pre-registered and they are over 75, we are going to target them and make them the priority. We aren’t going to leave anyone behind. People over 75 will go to the front of the line.”

Lam also questioned the $17.5 million that Maryland Emergency Management Agency paid Hagerty Consulting, a business management firm, to assist with the vaccine roll-out on a 9-month contract.

Schrader responded the amount was negligible and pointed out that the state spent $600 million on personal protective equipment.

“That amount pails in comparison.”

Senator Mary Washington brought up the fact that she’s heard of some 17-year-old summer camp employees being able to get the vaccine by calling themselves  childcare workers. Schrader said he hopes people will take an ethical approach to the vaccine, yet Washington responded that she’s heard of cases of racial profiling when it comes to distribution. For example, people of color who present for a vaccine are more frequently being asked for proof of eligibility than white individuals.

The Senate Vaccine Oversight Workgroup meets weekly.