Maryland health official says vaccine sign-up is working

FOX 5 has been receiving emails and phone calls from people frustrated and concerned while trying to register for a Maryland vaccine appointment, but a state health department official believes the multi-point system is working. The Maryland Health Department official made this claim, participating with colleagues in a local, virtual, Montgomery County Council meeting on Tuesday.

Councilmember Evan Glass asked why the state is not doing a centralized, "one-stop-shop" site to register for vaccines, noting a Marylander who compared trying to find appointments to the "Hunger Games."

READ MORE: Montgomery County getting 1,000 fewer doses this week

Heather Shek, assistant director of the Maryland Department of Health’s Office of Governmental Affairs, answered that they did look into this. However, Shek said the state’s health system is not built that way and that not many other states are doing a centralized system. The state official also said it is not helpful to compare Maryland to the four named states, like West Virginia, that do use a centralized site, because the populations are so different.

"I do want to highlight, what we’re doing is working. We’re getting people vaccinated. We’ve gone from 2,000 a-day on average to 22,000 a dad," said Shek, who also said, "The biggest thing is there is no single point of failure. We have several options for folks to sign-up. It moves away from a bottleneck."

Shek said people can register on multiple sites (FOX 5 has heard other officials encourage people do this) but the state has not heard of people obtaining multiple appointments. They also ask people to cancel registrations on other waitlists if they are granted an appointment.

READ MORE: FOX 5 discusses race in vaccine distribution with area health leaders

Former ambassador, Marc Ginsberg, tells FOX 5 he and his wife have spent days getting kicked-off of multiple registration sites, so he created a petition slamming both the Montgomery County executive and Maryland governor over vaccine sign-up issues.

"We’re pushed around from one registration site to another. This is one of the most botched operations. I’m almost ashamed to be a citizen of Maryland – and the horror stories I hear from my neighbors of the mismanagement of Governor Hogan of this operation when they should’ve began planning for this before the vaccines were even authorized to be issued… " said Ginsberg.

Over 20 out of 100 people had signed this petition as of Tuesday. Ginsberg also told FOX 5 his wife was finally able to secure an appointment on Tuesday morning. One woman interviewed with FOX 5 the previous day claiming she and her four siblings are all working together and still couldn’t manage to book vaccine appointments for their parents, who are 65 and older.

There were also other concerns raised in the hearing, like why there are no talks to open a mass vaccination site in Montgomery County. Montgomery County Health Officer Travis Gayles asked if the state would commit to reserving a certain amount of the vaccine at the Six Flags Mass Vaccination site for Montgomery County residents. No immediate answer was given.

READ MORE: Maryland opens COVID-19 mass vaccination sites at Six Flags America and Baltimore Convention Center

The state health officials did say they are getting more vaccines from the federal government and that the Biden Administration committed to sharing allotment information some two and three weeks ahead of time, instead of the week notice.

By Tuesday evening, the state’s coronavirus information page said all appointments for the Prince George’s County Six Flags America Mass Vaccination Site have been reserved through February 15, 2021. If you scroll down this page, the state does include a feature to look up vaccination sites closest to you: COVID-19 Vaccinations in Maryland

"At this time, the federal government is giving the state approximately 11,000 doses/day for over 2 million people who are eligible. Supply is very limited," the website says.

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State officials still have not answered FOX 5’s questions on whether the doses not given to counties this week were re-allocated to the state’s two new mass vaccination sites and whether that is part of the plan moving forward.

On Monday, the state health department reported nearly 700,000 vaccines administered. On Tuesday, Maryland Health reported over 727,000 shots given.