Maryland’s governor delivered some good news and some dismaying news to the county regarding the COVID–19 vaccine this week.
Gov. Larry Hogan (R) yesterday announced that Montgomery County would be getting one of six new mass vaccination sites around the state.
The governor also announced that the state entered Phase 2A of its vaccination plan, granting eligibility to all Marylanders age 60 and older as of March 23.
However, the governor also issued an order that forbade other jurisdictions, such as the county, to make vaccine priority rules that were different from the state’s rules.
That order forced the County Council to scrap a proposed regulation designed to improve the equitable distribution of vaccines to certain parts of the county.
The county’s mass vaccination site, expected to open the week of April 5, will be located at the Germantown campus of Montgomery College in a partnership with Holy Cross Health.
In a joint statement, County Executive Marc Elrich and the County Council thanked the governor and the partners involved, adding, “Our priority has always been the health and safety of our residents as well as others in the region, which now includes having greater access to the COVID-19 vaccine. This mass vaccination site will be more accessible by public transit than other locations around the State, making it easier for people who depend on public transportation to get to the site.”
The governor’s announcement restricting the county’s freedom to set its own vaccine priorities caught local officials by surprise, Dr. Travis Gayles, the county’s health officer, told council during a COVID–19 briefing.
The council was scheduled yesterday to introduce a health regulation that would have directed the health officers to identify zip codes with higher than normal mortality rates and immediately grant eligibility to residents in those areas age 60 or older.
The regulation would have lowered the eligibility in those zip codes to age 55 and older by April 13, as well as further lower the eligibility age if warranted after consultation with the director of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Hogan’s move dismayed councilmembers such as Councilmember Will Jawando (D-At Large), one of those who initiated the regulation.
Jawando tweeted, “With no explanation or notice & inconsistent with previous state orders. This unilateral action takes away our ability to prioritize our most vulnerable residents.”
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With no explanation or notice & inconsistent with previous state orders. This unilateral action takes away our ability to prioritize our most vulnerable residents. We are analyzing our legal options & remain committed to continuing our focus on #vaccine equity.
— Will Jawando (@willjawando) March 23, 2021