ROCKVILLE, Md. (FOX 5 DC) - Montgomery County health officials are pleading with county residents to stop sharing links for making vaccination appointments.
Since late January, given the limited supply of vaccine doses, clinics ran by the county have been prioritizing residents who are over the age of 75 and older for vaccine appointments.
During a media briefing Thursday between county Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles, Dr. Earl Stoddard and County Executive Marc Elrich, they said that improper unofficial link sharing is causing mass confusion and long lines.
Some FOX 5 viewers shared social media posts with us indicating that large groups of people had been showing up to get vaccinated at one of the county’s clinics at Richard Montgomery High School on Thursday morning, including teachers and those under the age of 75.
Gayles said the county has been clear over the past several weeks that people who want to be vaccinated at a county-run clinic need to preregister with the county and have to be in the category of 75 or older.
He said part of the issue is that after residents preregister and are sent links to make appointments, those links are being shared among relatives, friends and acquaintances.
"I’m signed up at every single link," said one woman who was under 75 years of age and showed to the high school. "I’m signed up at the Convention Center, I’m signed up everywhere, so you know I don’t what to tell you. Like when you get these links it’s like the Hunger Games all you do is click on them and make an appointment."
A couple in their 60's and 70’s told FOX 5 they signed up on a link sent to them by a friend. When they got the appointment, they showed up at Richard Montgomery High School on Thursday.
"I got a posting from a friend on WhatsApp that said, ‘Here is the link and there are 50 appointments for tomorrow,’" the couple explained. "So we got online and we scheduled the appointments and here we are."
Gayles also talked about teachers being turned away. He said teachers are supposed to be working with community partners such as Johns Hopkins Medicine and Suburban Hospital that are providing thousands of doses to educators.
MCPS spokeswoman Gboyinde Onijala said in a statement:
"The county informed us that it will be up to 5 weeks for county provided shots. Johns Hopkins continues to provide a first round of vaccinations to staff at this time. We do not know when they will provide a second batch or how many will be available. They provided 4,500 for the first round."
The county also recently removed its dashboard from its website that shows how many vaccines it has received and has used.
Spokeswoman Mary C. Anderson told FOX 5 the county was concerned that their own information about doses received and used was different than what the state was reporting but that a new dashboard is expected to go live on Friday.
Anderson said the appointment links are generated by a state-run site, known as PrepMod, that the county is required by the state to use. She said even when the state-run system asks users to enter their age, it doesn’t filter them out if they aren’t 75 or older.
Anderson said the county is working with the state to make changes to PrepMod which should help with filtering out anyone who isn’t eligible, from making an appointment before it’s their turn.