Maryland’s coronavirus vaccine distribution rollout has been less successful than that of many other states because the Hogan administration failed to implement a clear strategy and demonstrate concerted leadership, Del. Brian Chisholm said Monday.
Maryland is currently in Phase 1c of its vaccination plan, which covers residents ages 65-74 as well as some essential workers but several counties are not in that phase as of Monday.
A total of 544,369 doses have been administered in the state as of Monday morning, according to the Department of Health. But it is unclear how many people in the state have been vaccinated or if those include the required two vaccinations.
Though Maryland has recently improved its vaccine rollout it is still being eclipsed by states that have fewer resources. That includes North Dakota and West Virginia, both of which are respectively first and second nationwide in vaccine distribution.
“We just lack any real or strategy or plan to get the vaccine out as quickly as we could. And I know we are limited on supply but it seems like even when we had supply we had a hard time getting it out,” Chisholm (R-Anne Arundel) told MarylandReporter.com.
Chisholm, who sits on the House Health & Government Operations Committee, added: “I wish I had a great answer on why we didn’t do it effectively. But we certainly did not do it.”
Chisholm said because the state has prioritized certain groups over others for vaccination, which was done per the advice of federal medical professionals-that that has made the distribution process less efficient.
“I think we are always so concerned about special interest groups in this state: ‘We have to make sure that we get these people done…’ We lack the ability to have any real leadership. Because we don’t have great decision-makers in this state that are willing to step up and say: ‘This is what we should be doing and this is how we are going to it.’ Because they are afraid of the backlash.”
Sen. Cory McCray (D-Baltimore City) also blamed the Hogan administration for the arguably slow pace of distribution. McCray noted that Senate President Bill Ferguson has set up a vaccine workgroup to increase oversight over the administration’s rollout.
McCray said that the panel, which is scheduled to have its second meeting later this afternoon, will bring in Acting Health Secretary Health Dennis Schrader “every week to discuss where they are with vaccine distribution.”
Ferguson has said that it would “not be fair” to confirm Schrader as a secretary at the present time.
Hogan’s communication’s director, Michael Ricci, pushed back against the lawmakers’ assertions.
“I’d urge those folks to dig deeper into the data. We’re administering shots at the 20th-highest rate in the country. Our daily rate is 70% higher than it was just two weeks ago. Seventy-eight percent of first doses have been given. Fifty-eight percent of vaccinations have gone to Marylanders 50 and over.”
Ricci noted that the state has deployed national guard members to assist with the vaccination process and has set up mass vaccination sites to speed up rollout. Ricci said the administration has “pushed the federal government to increase supply and address data lags” and has “launched an extensive grassroots public outreach campaign to promote vaccine confidence.”
Ricci urged the lawmakers to take the situation into context before doling out criticism.
“It is easy enough to criticize behind a Zoom screen all day, but we’re out here working hard problems, and that’s what’s going to make the difference in saving lives and bringing this pandemic to an end.”
Starting today Marylanders in some counties who have certain immunocompromised conditions, such as cancer and diabetes, are eligible for vaccination.