Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), acknowledging that residents have struggled to find open appointment slots to get vaccinated, said the state will open its first mass vaccination sites next week and will distribute vaccine doses to more pharmacies, including some Safeway and Rite Aid stores.
As of Tuesday, the number of Maryland residents eligible for vaccination was roughly three times as large as the number of doses available. The governor also announced he would again broaden the pool of eligible residents starting Monday to include severely immunocompromised people, such as those undergoing chemotherapy.
“It goes without saying, it is simply an impossibility for all of them to immediately receive it,” Hogan said of the 2.1 million Marylanders now eligible. “As frustrating as this is for every single one of us, this will obviously be a much longer process than any of us would like, and it’s going to require a great deal of patience for many months.”
Hogan said mass vaccination sites at Six Flags America in Prince George’s County and the Baltimore Convention Center — two jurisdictions hit hard by the pandemic — will begin operating by Feb. 5, with sites in other regions to follow. The number of appointments available at those sites will be based on dose allocations from the federal government, which are set to increase for all states by 16 percent for the next three weeks.
“The truth is, this is not going to magically get better overnight,” Hogan said. “The last 10 months have been really hard. This is going to be much, much harder.”
The select Safeway and Rite Aid pharmacies will join a handful of Walmart and Giant pharmacies that are offering vaccine appointments, bringing the number of private locations in the state to 51. While local health departments have restricted access to the highest-priority patients in places where demand dramatically exceeds supply, the pharmacies follow broader state guidance that allows anyone 65 and over, plus essential workers and others, to be vaccinated now.
Hogan said he will use the Maryland National Guard, previously deployed to the U.S. Capitol, to help implement his plans. He also said the federal government will provide $219 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help pay for the effort.
In Virginia, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D) and Tim Kaine (D) also announced additional FEMA funding Tuesday, saying that Arlington County would receive more than $2.2 million to help in distributing vaccine doses. The money will go toward transportation, storage and other costs associated with administering shots, the senators said.
They said every county in the state was given the opportunity to apply for FEMA funding for the purpose, and Arlington was the first to successfully do so.
Members of Congress from Virginia sent a letter to FEMA’s acting director Tuesday asking for a mass vaccination site in Northern Virginia like those Hogan is setting up in Maryland.
Democratic Reps. Jennifer Wexton, Don Beyer and Gerald E. Connolly wrote that the region has both the capacity and the demand to support one of the 100 federally operated mass vaccination sites that the Biden administration has proposed.
“Our localities are eager and ready,” the members of Congress wrote, “and they have the capability to vaccinate thousands more people than they currently have vaccine supply for. . . . Staffing is not the limiting factor, supply is.”
The lawmakers highlighted several jurisdictions in the region. Arlington, for example, is receiving about 2,700 doses each week but has the capacity to administer 1,000 each day, they said. In Alexandria, more than 25,000 people are on a vaccine waiting list, and in neighboring Fairfax County, more than 100,000 people are in line.
“A vaccination site in Northern Virginia is the easiest way to meet supply with demand right now and to help the president’s goal of a strong vaccination rollout for his first 100 days,” they wrote.
President Biden unveiled the proposal to create mass vaccination sites on his first day in office. The centers would be run by FEMA, drastically ramping up the federal government’s role in the pandemic response.
In the District, council members expressed concerns Tuesday about the city’s approach to vaccinating seniors.
The city makes new vaccine appointments available each Thursday and Friday morning. Eligible residents must log on to a city website or call a hotline to reserve an appointment — and all available spots are generally snagged within minutes.
Six members of the D.C. Council sent a letter Tuesday to Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Wayne Turnage, arguing that the city should set up a process for seniors to enter their addresses and other information into the system one time, then be placed on a wait list to get vaccinated, rather than trying to race for a new spot each time.
The region’s record death toll Tuesday included nine fatalities in the District, 93 in Virginia and 63 in Maryland. The District reported 195 new cases Tuesday, while Virginia reported 4,707 and Maryland reported 1,482.