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Expanding COVID vaccination distribution beyond means

Howard County leaders question stretching limited supply
Posted at 4:11 PM, Feb 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-03 17:11:14-05

COLUMBIA, Md. — The relief that comes with getting a potentially life-saving vaccine.

“No. I didn’t have any hesitation at all,” said Kathy Doughty inside the Howard County Health Department in early January. “This is a great opportunity.”

Measured a month ago by the reality that the supply for local health departments would be difficult to gage.

“To date, there has been little lead time on when we will receive more doses and how many doses to expect,” County Executive Calvin Ball told reporters at the time.

In the weeks that have followed, the county’s weekly allotment grew and it distributed all of the vaccine it received, 17,000 doses in all, before the supply chain hit a snag.

“We’ve been averaging about 3,000 doses per week,” Ball told us during a virtual interview on Wednesday. “Last week, we were able to get to about 4,500 so we thought we were taking a step in the right direction. However, this coming week, it looks like we’re going to get about 2,000.”

In a letter to residents this week, County Health Officer Dr. Maura Rossman has advised them to ‘reach out to the retail pharmacies, hospitals and Kaiser to assess their availability’.

All of them represent new outlets for the vaccine, along with mass vaccination sites, which are soon to come on line, which will draw down some of the supply, which has previously been going to local health departments.

“I think as we’re seeing this limited supply, but an expansion of sites, will actually cause more confusion,” said Ball. “I think they would be much better advised to work on ramping up the amount of vaccine, build in consistency in the sites and then as we get more vaccine, expand the sites.”

For now, it appears many of the 200,000 people who have pre-registered for the shots in Howard County may have to look elsewhere or risk waiting even longer for the life-saving vaccine.

The county executive will host a Vaccine Telephone Town Hall on Monday at 6 p.m. to answer residents questions surrounding the vaccine’s availability.

You can call 855-756-7520 Ext. 71314# to join in and it will also be live-streamed online.