Raymond Crowel, head of Montgomery’s Health and Human Services Department, said racial and income disparities persist among the residents who have preregistered for the vaccine.
Using a map graphic, he showed that residents from wealthier Bethesda, Potomac and Chevy Chase are overrepresented among those who have signed up to be vaccinated, while those from Gaithersburg and Silver Spring are underrepresented.
“The inequities and disparities are so stark already and that really concerns me,” said Montgomery County Council member Nancy Navarro (D-District 4). “It’s like watching a dystopian movie play out.”
The vaccine shortage has also laid bare problems with health equity in Fairfax County, home to 1.1 million residents, officials said.
Fairfax County health officials said they are worried about people receiving the wrong vaccine as their second dose — for example, the one from Pfizer if they already received a Moderna shot — and have designated specific neighborhood clinics for the different types of vaccine.
All first-time inoculations are being handled inside the county government center, which is hard to reach for lower-income residents who live farther away, officials said.
Fairfax officials say Black and Latino residents older than 75 have registered for vaccine appointments at lower rates than other groups — either because they worry about side effects or because they don’t know how to make an appointment.
The county is offering free transportation to the government center from neighborhoods farther away and is working with religious leaders and community groups to reach those populations, officials said.
The health department is building up its vaccine network to include private doctors for when more vaccines become available, said Gloria Addo-Ayensu, the county’s health director.
Among those groups are 70 private health-care providers who cater to ethnic communities and are being trained in how to administer vaccine doses, she said.
“The ideal thing would be for us to be able to engage clinicians, private providers,” Addo-Ayensu said. “They are everywhere in our community. Our community already knows them and can actually trust them.”
Fairfax health officials said Tuesday that their countywide waitlist for the first round of vaccine doses has climbed to 186,602 — a still-growing number that will be difficult to winnow down with just 13,600 doses being shipped each week from the state.
“It will take a long time to work through the numbers who have already signed up and there are more signing up every day,” Benjamin Schwartz, the county’s top epidemiologist, told the Fairfax Board of Supervisors during a briefing.
Virginia’s largest county began receiving fewer vaccine doses after the state Health Department began allocating vaccines by population instead of based on a health department’s or provider’s capacity for administering vaccine. Fairfax was previously receiving about 16,700 doses for first inoculations.
County supervisors expressed frustration Tuesday with the pace of inoculations, saying residents have been flooding their offices with questions about where they are on the waitlist and when more vaccines would arrive.
“Is that summer? Is that March?” Supervisor Daniel G. Storck (D-Mount Vernon) asked Addo-Ayensu about a broader vaccination effort. “When do we see that changing?”
Addo-Ayensu responded: “I don’t know,” and then explained that information has been spotty about additional vaccine doses and when they might arrive.
“We have to wait and see,” Addo-Ayensu said. “That’s not the answer you’re looking for, but that’s the reality.”
The District released partial data this week on the race and ethnicity of those who have received the shots, saying 17,000 White residents and just under 10,000 Black residents have been vaccinated in a city where Black residents are a plurality. But city leaders cautioned against drawing conclusions based on the preliminary figures because they are incomplete.
As health officials confront vaccine distribution, they also are finding more cases of coronavirus variants.
The Montgomery County residents who tested positive for the South African variant on Tuesday had recently traveled abroad, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said. Contact tracing is underway, and close contacts are isolating, he said.
Over the weekend, Maryland became the second state in the nation to report a case of the South African coronavirus variant. That case, officials said, involved a Baltimore-area man who had not recently traveled out of the country.
Maryland screens a “fairly small percentage” of positive coronavirus tests for variants through a patchwork network of private and public labs that include Johns Hopkins University and the state-owned lab, Deputy Health Secretary Jinlene Chan said.
Samples are sometimes random and other times targeted to a genomic surveillance effort to detect variants when a clustered outbreak or international travel warrants it, she said.
“It’s a resource that’s relatively costly,” Chan said. “It doesn’t make sense to do sequencing on all of them.”
Nationwide, the genetic sequencing of virus samples is so sparse that experts say it is likely mutations are quickly spreading undetected.
On the same day the variant was announced in Montgomery, efforts were underway to get vaccines to more residents.
Earl Stoddard, the county’s head of emergency management, said Tuesday that the jurisdiction has partnered with Johns Hopkins and other health-care providers to vaccinate public and nonpublic school employees.
Officials also are seeking the state’s permission to vaccinate 100 child-care providers and are helping to secure doses for residents and staff of independent-living senior facilities, which weren’t included in a federal partnership with CVS and Walgreens, said Health Officer Travis Gayles.
The county is considering reopening indoor dining early next week, officials said. County Executive Marc Elrich (D) sent an executive order lifting the ban to lawmakers Tuesday. If approved by the council, it would go into effect Feb. 9.
Baltimore and D.C. resumed indoor dining in January, leaving Montgomery as an “outlier,” Stoddard said.
He emphasized, however, that “just because something is permitted doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.” The county’s 14-day average test positivity rate was 5.9 percent on Tuesday, which suggests a “moderate” rate of community transmission, according to federal guidelines.
The greater Washington region Tuesday reported 82 new virus-
related deaths and 3,775 new infections — the fewest number of new daily cases in the region since Nov. 15. Virginia reported 2,740 cases and 43 deaths, Maryland reported 905 cases and 34 deaths, and D.C. reported 130 cases and five deaths.
Alexandria police announced Tuesday that parking enforcement officer Edward Bonds, 52, died last week of complications from the virus. Bonds, of Suitland, had worked for the city for 21 years.
Erin Cox and Rachel Weiner contributed to this report.