Maryland counties say they have the capacity to inoculate more people, they're just waiting for more vaccines.
Maryland counties continue to ramp up their vaccination capabilities, officials say, but remain stymied by the limited supply of doses they are receiving from the state and federal government.
Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks announced Thursday that the county will dispatch mobile units this week to elderly homebound individuals, open more vaccination sites, and text residents to schedule appointments. Though the county will have to temporarily close its sports and learning complex vaccination site for routine maintenance between March 13 and 28, it plans on opening two more – one next week at Kentland Community Center in Landover, and one on March 15 at the Cedar Heights Community Center in Seat Pleasant.
All told, the county has the ability to vaccinate 2,000 people per day, Alsobrooks said – but it only receives about 6,200 vaccines per week.
"People are asking, 'where in the world are our vaccines?'" Alsobrooks said. "We cannot administer vaccines that we don't have. I can't say it any more plainly than that."
There are currently 120,000 county residents on a waiting list for the vaccine.
Montgomery County officials, meanwhile, announced Wednesday that they're opening a large-scale vaccination site at Montgomery College's Germantown campus to prove to the state that they can accommodate a large number of vaccine appointments. The county also began registering people 65 years and older for vaccination appointments this week.
County Executive Marc Elrich also emphasized the need for more vaccines Wednesday in a virtual press conference with reporters.
"If we're provided the vaccines, we will open up a mass vaccination site in the county. We're ready to do it," Elrich said.
The Maryland Department of Health has already opened a state-run mass vaccination center at the Six Flags in Bowie, but at least one-third of the doses from the site have gone to Montgomery County residents. Only 11% have gone to Prince George's County residents.
"The unfortunate truth is that people have been made to compete for appointments," Alsobrooks said. "So there is a whole equity issue that has been created and maybe not anticipated...but the results speak for themselves."
Data from the state's Department of Legislative Services shows that Prince George's County, the hardest hit by COVID-19 in the state, is lagging in vaccine distribution. County residents make up about 15% of the state's population, but only about 8% of the first doses. Prince George's and Charles counties and Baltimore City — the state's predominantly Black communities — have the lowest percentages of people in the population receiving first and second doses.
Alsobrooks said she'd like to see more vaccines go to the Six Flags site.
"I'd like 50% of the vaccines administered at that [Six Flag] site that is in our county to go to Prince George's County residents," Alsobrooks said. "Or in the alternative, I believe [in] setting aside a day or days...exclusively to Prince Georgians. This would help us tremendously to be able to increase [inoculation] numbers."
She added that she'd like to see additional vaccines go to the University of Maryland College Park site, because there are zip codes around that area with large populations of Latino residents heavily affected by the pandemic.
The county is also looking to open the First Baptist Church of Glenarden — one of the largest churches in the county — as a vaccination center by mid-March, with the goal of ramping up to 1,000 vaccinations per day. The county would partner with the University of Maryland Medical System to supply some of the vaccines to those sites.
This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.