According to the official Maryland Department of Health statistics as of 2/7/21, Calvert County has the 5th highest rate of vaccination among Maryland’s 24 counties. 100% of the vaccines received by the Calvert County Health Department through 2/7/21 have been administered. For readers wondering why they aren’t among the 10,566 residents of our county who have received at least one dose of vaccine, the short answer is that we lack sufficient numbers of vaccinations to do the job that we desperately want to do. Of note, there are over 4,000 healthcare workers, first responders, and classroom educators in Calvert who have been prioritized for vaccination by the Governor. This leaves only a fraction of the number of doses needed to vaccinate the 15,000 seniors who live in our county, not to mention the tens of thousands of people age 40-64 with significant chronic health problems who have yet to be officially approved for vaccination. Making matters worse, especially in rural counties, is the recent shift in state policy to take vaccines away from local health departments and send them to chain pharmacies and mass vaccination sites in more densely populated counties. Our county’s public health professionals were not allowed any input when the state began choosing pharmacies to stock with vaccines. It should speak volumes that the only pharmacy in Calvert that has been given vaccines (Giant in Dunkirk) is more accessible to many residents of Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties than those who live in Prince Frederick, St. Leonard, Lusby, or Solomons. Our health department staff have been working 7 days every week to coordinate and administer vaccine doses since we received our first shipment with less than 24-hour’s notice on December 17th. This entire process has lacked coordination at federal and state levels. As a result, we have been forced to formulate plans on the fly. And since we are coordinating medical care, this must be done precisely because there is no margin for error. The public health professionals at our health department regularly discuss policies and planning with a group of over 40 local doctors, nurse practitioners, and hospital administrators to ensure the most efficient and fair process possible given the limitations of resources and urgency of the situation. Our health department typically isn’t notified of how many vaccine doses we are receiving for the week until Saturday. Our staff is then left to quickly plan distribution of doses on Sunday and Monday morning. Planning involves: - Coordination of first and second doses of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines (different dosing regiments are needed for each manufacturer’s product) over multiple days each week at our drive-thru vaccination clinic - Multiple outreach clinics each week to underserved populations - Partnership with the hospital’s KeepWell staff and the County Government’s Office on Aging to vaccinate seniors in independent living communities - Performing house calls to medically vulnerable residents with severe mobility problems
- Partnership with school nurses to vaccinate classroom staff and other critical school employees - Onsite vaccinations for staff and patients at our county’s dialysis centers - Direct communications with every medical and dental office in the county to make sure direct service healthcare providers are vaccinated - Direct communications with every first responder agency in the county to ensure all have access to vaccination - Direct communications with every daycare provider so working parents have more consistent services (a benefit to parents who would lose their jobs without daycare and employers who depend on those employees, including medical offices and first responder organizations) In addition, due to the failure of CVS and Walgreens to uphold their federal contracts to vaccinate residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, our health department staff volunteered to jump in and make sure these extremely vulnerable populations were vaccinated as quickly as possible. Exacerbating stresses both to health professionals and the public are the continued expansions of those deemed eligible for vaccination by the state even though we lack the doses needed to fully immunize the previously prioritized groups. For example, although as healthcare providers we wish we could vaccinate everyone, prioritizing healthy 19-year-old grocery store employees when hundreds of thousands of seniors across the state have yet to be vaccinated defies reason. Other groups included in 1A and 1B are also questionable by traditional bioethical considerations. Our health department staff have been doing our best to reserve vaccination appointments for those who are at greatest health risk or serve in truly critical employment categories. Like local health departments across the state, we were not given any guidance on delivery of vaccines to the general population, unless you consider “put shots in arms” as guidance. Local health departments have been completely excluded from state planning. We typically learn of decisions by listening to press conferences. Health Officers across the state have raised continued objections to state officials about the lack of local input into planning and the failure of state officials to provide monthly allocation schedules so we can properly organize local vaccination efforts. Last week, many local health departments that prescheduled vaccinations on the expectation of continued deliveries had to cancel thousands of people’s appointments when their allocations were drastically cut. Along with almost every other local health department in the state, our weekly allocation was slashed by 66% the week of February 1st as doses of vaccines were shifted to mass vaccination sites and chain pharmacies, almost all of which are outside of Calvert. Our allocation was cut again for this coming week. There are still close to 1,900 residents 75 and older who are awaiting vaccination, but we are only being provided with 500 first doses this week. Our health department leadership have advocated on behalf of the residents of Calvert to ask both the Maryland Department of Health and the Governor to reconsider the current plan and
resume more equitable distribution of vaccines across all of the counties. We understand how important it is to provide protection to our residents and essential workers. Until the time that we begin to receive more doses locally, our best advice is for people to register at pharmacies and the mass vaccination sites. We realize this means another waiting list or two or three (the state has no central registry) and vaccination will likely require travel outside of Calvert, but given the current state policies, this is the most likely means of being protected against COVID. For those who have received your first dose through our health department, we expect that we will continue to have adequate supplies of second doses to complete your series. We will update you if any policies change.