State to create vaccine portal
Site would allow registration for mass inoculation sites
Maryland officials will launch a one-stop, preregistration web portal soon for people looking to book COVID-19 immunization appointments at the state’s mass vaccination clinics.
The website would come online in March, the state’s acting health secretary Dennis R. Schrader told Maryland state senators at a virtual vaccine oversight meeting Monday.
“This is going to allow us to manage the flow of appointments, which we’re very excited about,” Schrader said. “But most importantly, we expect that establishing a preregistration system will improve the user experience and better prepare for the day when the supplies are very, very abundant.”
Schrader and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, previously dismissed the idea of a one-stop registration website for vaccination appointments, calling it a setup for a “single point of failure.” But lawmakers, elected officials and members of Maryland’s congressional delegation have countered that the state’s largely decentralized system has created confusion and anxiety, excluding people not digitally savvy from signing up for time slots.
The new registration portal is only for the state’s mass vaccination sites. Appointments for doses from hospitals, health departments, pharmacies and others still would be scheduled separately.
Still, Schrader said it would help the state better coordinate with county health departments.
The state currently runs two mass vaccination clinics — one at Six Flags America in Prince George’s County and the other at the Baltimore Convention Center — with a third at M&T Bank Stadium scheduled to open Thursday.
The two sites combined have been inoculating thousands of people per day as the
available appointments fill quickly, sometimes within minutes.
Schrader said a newly launched phone line — 855-634-6829 — also has had success connecting users with appointments and information. The phone number is staffed with operators seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., he said, and could help people register for appointments at mass vaccination clinics or help them find the closest provider to their place of residence.
Separately, the senators had hard questions for Schrader about what they referred to as a disparate vaccine rollout, which has come at the expense of people of color, low-income families and older adults. State data shows white people getting inoculated at more than four times the rate as Black Marylanders, a gap that has widened since the governor expanded eligibility to more people in January.
“If you do nothing else, it’s going to be worse. The disparity is going to get worse,” said state Sen. Mary Washington, a Democrat who represents Baltimore. “You see that evidence right in front of your face. ... The disparity is growing.
“You keep saying there’s vaccine hesitancy, but that’s really a blaming-the-victim approach, whereas the data says we need more 24-hour walk-up clinics. We need mobile units. We actually maybe need to reserve some doses for individuals who are slower to get in line.”
Washington asked Schrader for details about his team’s approach to “getting shots in the right arms.”
He acknowledged that he had not seen the vaccine-related demographic data she referenced, which Maryland’s chief innovation officer, Michael Powell, presented at the start of the meeting.
“Our data has shown that the African American distribution has held steady for the last eight weeks,” said Schrader, adding that that wasn’t necessarily a good sign. “Our numbers suggest there’s been a steady percentage across the last several weeks. Our goal is to increase that.”
Schrader said the agency was working closely with the state’s equity task force, which has been creating “linkages” in communities. He said more community events led by the state’s equity task force would take place next week, featuring the support of partners that include Johns Hopkins Medicine and the University of Maryland Medical System.
Democratic State Sen. Clarence Lam, a physician who represents Baltimore and Howard counties, asked Schrader for details about the state’s vaccine-related contract with the consulting firm Ernst & Young.
Schrader did not disclose the value of the emergency contract, but noted that the company was handling “a number of things” for the state, offering a national perspective on the supply chain and “helping us unravel some of the mysteries of the federal allocation and accounting system.”
Lam said that makes it even more crucial for the state to publicize the value of the contract and explain what the firm is doing.
“I would like to know what they are actually doing, because if they’ve been working with us the last couple weeks, it doesn’t look like our rankings have changed that much in terms of when you compare us to other states,” he said.
Meanwhile, several senators asked Schrader about Prince George’s County’s lagging vaccination rate, which ranked last out of all 24 counties in the percentage of population vaccinated.
“The No. 1 and 2 users of the mass vaccination sites are Montgomery County and Howard County, so we know that,” Schrader said. “However, as I said last week, we’re going to continue to press to get the population of Prince George’s County to get vaccinated. We’re not going to rest until we get those numbers up.”
Schrader meets every Monday with the Maryland Senate’s Vaccine Oversight Workgroup to monitor the state’s vaccination operations.
The information from the meetings will guide senators as they decide whether to confirm Schrader as state health secretary, Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Democrat, has said.
URGENT!!! COVID Vaccine Clinic for Baltimore City Adults 65 and Older Saturday March 13th (850 Doses Available)
- 850 Vaccines available! We don't want to waste any!
- Johnson and Johnson (1 Dose Vaccine)
- Baltimore City Residents
- Scheduling 100 people for each 1 hour time slot
- Age 65 and older
- Bring Identification
- Bring Insurance Card
- Bring completed Authorization Form (If form not complete there will be forms onsite and someone to help complete them)
Churches & Closed Recreation Centers
Coppin State University - West Baltimore
Men’s and Family Center - East Baltimore
The zip code priorities set at the Convention Center site have left off many of the major housing projects including Douglas Homes. With the detection of the virus at Latrobe Homes, it is urgent that the City and State set up mobile units to cover each area.
We will provide a list of public housing units.
Baltimore County is already providing free uber transportation
The City has the ability to use it’s own guidelines based on the fact that many of our residents are at greater risk. For instance, the COVID death rate for Black, Latinx and low wage and essential workers is higher, regardless of age. In Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Browser lowered the age for vaccinations in heavily Black wards based on the fact that death rates for the Black population were higher and that the life expectancy for the Black community was shorter. We must think out of the box, including exploring other vaccine sources if needed.
Plans must be made now so that we can immediately go into action when one-shot vaccines are delivered. Many states have already begun using the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
While the prison system is run primarily by the State, a large percentage of the population that are incarcerated are from Baltimore City. We must strongly advocate that all prisoners be vaccinated and have adequate PPE.
Many of these workers suffer from underlying health conditions; yet they are forced to go to work with no protection. This includes grocery workers, retail clerks, fast food and restaurant workers, bus drivers and many others. Let’s get them vaccinated as soon as possible.
Involve the unions in making plans to protect their workers.
We are urging weekly briefings with the Saving Our Lives Campaign and others with representatives of the City and State, including the Baltimore City Health Department, representatives of the Mayor’s Office, the Governor and the National Guard. These briefings should be open to the press.
RELEASE: Mayor Scott Announces Baltimore City COVID-19 Vaccination Distribution Plan for Upcoming Week