February 26, 2021

Dear Neighbor,

Maryland received 118,000 first doses of vaccine from the Federal Government this week, up from only 72,000 a month ago. We expect this allocation to increase even more after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine approval. 

Twelve weeks into vaccinating Marylanders, we have vaccinated about 13% of our population statewide. In Montgomery County, we are now slightly above the statewide average at 13.1% vaccinated. Howard County (the richest county in the state, and the 4th richest county in the country) is at almost 16% and many rural counties are approaching 20%. However, Prince George’s is only at 7% and Charles County is at 9%. Baltimore City is also below the state average at 11%. These areas with the lowest vaccination rates are also the jurisdictions with the largest Black populations in the state. 

For comparison purposes, the national average is 14% of the population vaccinated. So, we are still lagging almost all other states, ranked 48th in the nation. We are ahead of Mississippi, and Kansas, (and DC, which is not included in this ranking but is included in the New York Times ranking here.) We’re behind everyone else. 

Please note, these rankings do change daily, but Maryland has never been above 44th.

As part of the critical conversation about addressing vaccine hesitancy in minority populations, it is important to note that many states with populations nearly as diverse as Maryland are well ahead of us in percentage vaccinated. On most lists, Maryland is the 7th most diverse state in the nation, behind Hawaii, California, DC, Texas, New Mexico, and Nevada. However, peer states like Georgia (8th most diverse and 32nd in percentage vaccinated) and Florida (9th most diverse and 23rd in percentage vaccinated) are doing a noticeably better job of vaccinating a higher percentage of their population quickly. What we don’t know yet is if these states are doing so by leaving their minority populations behind.

The truth is, even in Maryland we don’t yet have adequate data to determine how we are doing in vaccinating our minority populations as compared to the white community. I have been trying to get accurate data on vaccination rates by race and ethnicity. Unfortunately, the data available has a significant percentage of “unknown” race or ethnicity information available- up to 14% of vaccine recipients in Maryland don’t have this information being tracked. I’m working with the state to try to improve our data in the coming weeks so we can effectively track racial disparities and inequities in access, as well as identify areas where interest in immediate vaccination is noticeably lower. This information will allow us to better craft vaccination access efforts and better deploy outreach and education efforts.   

The data that is available shows very alarming trends - including a significant and growing gap in the percentage of the population vaccinated for Asian American, Black, and Latino Marylanders, with the largest gap for Maryland’s Latino population, which is largely located in Montgomery and Prince George’s County. 

Update on Vaccinating Those 75+ 

As I mentioned last week, Montgomery County will be sending everyone 75 and over an invitation for a vaccine appointment. This process began this week and will continue into next week. By Thursday, March 4th, everyone 75 and over should have received the opportunity to schedule a vaccine appointment at a Montgomery County clinic. These appointments will be scheduled for vaccine clinics taking place through March 15.

If you are 75 or over, have registered on the Montgomery County pre-registration list, and still have not received an invitation after Thursday, March 4th, please contact my office.

If you are homebound, the County is beginning to conduct home visits in partnership with local nonprofits. They are starting with 50 visits this week and will expand the program from there. 

To participate in either of these programs, please make sure you are pre-registered on the County list HERE.

Between 65 and 74?

Montgomery County clinics should begin sending invitations to this group after they have completed inviting the 75+ group (so, hopefully, middle of next week). Please remember, if you’re not in a priority zip code, you are unlikely to be in the first batch of invitations. However, an invitation will come before the County moves on to the next phase. 

Many MoCo residents in this age group have had tremendous success getting appointments at the state mass vaccination clinics at Six Flags or M&T Bank Stadium. 25% of the people being vaccinated at these sites are from Montgomery County. Of course, this is only an option for people with reliable transportation and time off of work. 

Pharmacies and hospitals are also vaccinating this age group. You can find the information for all of these sites HERE.

IMPORTANT FOR EVERYONE: New State Pre-Registration Site Coming

For residents interested in using the state-run mass vaccination sites in Bowie and Baltimore, the soon to open site in Waldorf, another two coming on the Eastern Shore and Western Maryland, AND an eventual (hopefully) mass vaccination site in Montgomery County, it’s VERY IMPORTANT you pay attention to this news. 

The state will be establishing a pre-registration list for these sites. It will likely go live in early March (possibly next week). This will serve as a waitlist for appointments at these sites. This is a separate waitlist from the County waitlist. If you are in Phase 1A, 1B, or 1C, you will want to be signed up on this list as soon as it is available. If you are in Phase 2, the pre-registration list will be available to you AFTER Phase 1 residents have had an opportunity to pre-register.

When the signup link is publicly available, I will make sure to share it with you. 

It is CRITICAL to understand that the vast majority of new vaccine coming into Maryland is being sent to these state-run mass vaccination sites. If you don’t get on this list, you will likely wait longer than people on the list for access to a vaccine. 

New Mass Vaccination Site in Waldorf

Ever been to Southern Maryland? By March 11, the new state-run mass vaccination site (supported by FEMA) at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf (Charles County) will be open. This site is at the home of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs baseball team. 

As I mentioned earlier, Charles County, like Prince George’s County, has a very low percentage of population vaccinated. That’s why the mass vax site supported by FEMA is going there. But all Maryland residents are eligible to be vaccinated there. 1-855-634-6829 is the phone number and massvax.maryland.gov is the website for the state mass vaccination sites. 

Waldorf is a 60 - 75 minute drive each way from District 16. There is no direct public transportation from Montgomery County to this site (yet...stay tuned). 

State-run mass vaccination sites have rolling appointment availability meaning new appointments are available every day.

Teachers & Childcare Providers

There are still about 3,000 MCPS teachers and education support staff going back to in-person work in the first two phases who have not yet been vaccinated. The County is working with vaccinators within the County to expedite their vaccination. 

In addition, many childcare providers and private school teachers are still searching for vaccines. These workers, including nannies and other in-home childcare providers, are eligible for vaccination at the state-run mass vaccination sites, pharmacies, and many hospitals. See the resource list HERE. Please bring a letter from your employer or other proof of employment in one of these educational roles to your vaccine appointment. 

My own kids are scheduled to go back to partial in-person learning in late April. I’m deeply appreciative of the educators and school personnel who are working so hard to get us back to in-person learning. Many of the schools in District 16 have a large portion of the students opting for in-person over virtual learning. These schools are offering schedules with two different groups of in-person learners, with in-person learning four out of ten days. 

New State Contract with Ernst & Young 

The state has entered into a large emergency contract with these consultants to help with accountability for doses sent to different providers, federal allocation issues, and supply chain issues. These consultants are also working with the Department of Health to ensure residents in eligible populations are not left behind in our vaccine rollout. 

High-Density Senior Housing

There are several programs being run to ensure seniors in high-density senior housing are vaccinated. This includes independent living facilities and apartments/condos that are disproportionately seniors. 

As I have mentioned before, our Area Agency on Aging and County Health Department has developed a list of these communities. This list has been shared with the state. If your community is largely seniors (and not single-family homes or townhouses), please check with the County to see if you are on the list. Many communities that should qualify in District 16 are not yet on this County list. In order to be added to the list, you need to 1) reach out to the Area Agency on Aging and 2) prove you have a sizable number of vaccine-eligible seniors living in your building. Most communities on the list have more than 50 seniors in one building. Please share data broken down by 75+ and 65-74. This will help the County and State prioritize your community for an on-site vaccine clinic if appropriate. 

The County developed list which is held by the State is being used to direct some of the vaccines from the State Pharmacy Partnership Program (also known as the Federal Transfer Program) to on-site clinics for seniors. So it is critical if you are hoping for an on-site clinic from Giant, Safeway, Rite Aid, or Walmart you get your community added to the list held by the County Health Department and Area Agency on Aging. 

In addition, the County is directly operating on-site clinics in partnership with other vaccinators in the County at high-density senior communities in targeted areas. These clinics are prioritized by zip code based on case rates. 

Johnson & Johnson Vaccine 

The FDA’s vaccine advisory committee is meeting today to consider whether to recommend approval of the Johnson and Johnson COVID vaccine. While the FDA does not have to follow the advisory committee’s recommendations, it generally does. And based on past practices, the FDA could approve emergency use of the J&J vaccine as early as tomorrow.

That means 2-3 million doses of the vaccine can be shipped as early as next week. The company testified before Congress this week that they expect to deliver 20 million doses by the end of March and 60 million by the end of April. This brings another critical weapon in our fight against the emergence of COVID virus variants, particularly as it only requires one shot and does not require the delicate refrigeration that is necessary to properly handle the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. 

News reports regarding the clinical trial data of the J&J vaccine have led some to believe it’s less effective than the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Right now, the key metric to consider is that in clinical trials the Johnson and Johnson vaccine was shown to prevent 100% of hospitalizations and deaths.

In a recent TV interview, Dr. Fauci said it best: “take the vaccine.” He added, “this is a race between the virus and getting vaccines into people. The longer one waits on getting vaccinated, the better chance the virus has to get a variant or mutation.” 

Maryland's Supply Increasing

The Maryland allocation from the Federal government of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines has been steadily increasing. This week we reached a high of 118,000. News this week brings hope for even more availability of these vaccines. Read this article to learn more about the increased production of these vaccines. 

The approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine could lead to even greater increases next week. Maryland may get as many as 40,000 Johnson & Johnson doses in the first allocations, and as many as 400,000 J&J doses in the month of March. It is still unclear how many of the J&J doses will be sent directly to states, as opposed to being distributed through Federal programs, including programs to vaccinate Federal workers, the Federal Pharmacy Partnership Program, and the Indian Health Service program for American Indians and Alaska Natives.   

It is worth celebrating that Emergent Biosolutions, a company headquartered in Montgomery County, with manufacturing in our county and Baltimore, is the primary manufacturer of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the United States. Their Baltimore facility is responsible for manufacturing the J&J vaccine, and the AstraZeneca vaccine (which is yet to be approved by the FDA).  

Update on Montgomery County Mass Vaccination Site

Montgomery County elected officials have been unified in asking for a state-run mass vaccination site in Montgomery County. We are still awaiting a response from Governor Hogan.

Although County residents have been very successful at getting appointments at mass vaccination sites across the state, this is not a solution for every Montgomery County resident. It is especially burdensome for our neighbors with limited access to cars, limited time for travel across the state, and limited ability to travel long distances because of health conditions. The perception persists at the state level that Montgomery County is universally affluent. As we all know, this is not the case. We can see this in the difference between our vaccination rate (13%) and Howard County’s (16%). This gap will likely continue to grow as Montgomery County's more affluent residents are able to access the state vaccination sites at a much higher rate than our lower-income residents. 

In terms of our number of people being vaccinated– yes, a lot of Montgomery County residents are being vaccinated. But many others are being left behind. Statewide data makes clear, we are being vaccinated at a lower rate than 15 out of 23 other jurisdictions in Maryland. We do, however, have the highest demand, as demonstrated by the longest waitlist of people interested in the vaccine still unvaccinated.

This is a classic story of Montgomery County being taken for granted by the state. Our residents are being disproportionately burdened by the geographic distribution of mass vaccination sites. What makes this most unconscionable is that it is our lower-income residents who are bearing the bulk of this burden. 

I continue to urge you to advocate to the Governor for a mass vaccination site in Montgomery County. While the state has many competing priorities, we can't afford for our County to be overlooked. Special thanks to the Montgomery County Regional Student Government Association for passing a resolution in support of this call. As we expand the vaccine rollout to Phase 2 and Phase 3, we will really need an operational mass vaccination site in our County.   

Important: while our positivity rate continues to fall, the pandemic isn't over. Continue to wear a mask, wash your hands and practice social distancing.

P.S. THREE of my bills passed the House this week:
  • HB 161 creates up to 900 jobs and lowers the costs of audiology services.
  • HB 599 helps families plan for costs associated with long-term care.
  • HB 597 helps childcare centers fill staffing needs.

We also passed HB 123 out of subcommittee - an important bill that maintains telehealth access beyond the public health emergency. A committee vote is expected next week.  
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