- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Montgomery County’s top official is worried the suburban Washington, D.C., county won’t have enough COVID-19 shots to fully vaccinate children in the community.

County Executive Marc Elrich on Wednesday expressed concerns about the reduced number of doses the county received last week from the Maryland Department of Health.

The county got 7,000 doses from the state on Friday, he said, and officials signaled the county might not get any doses this week or next. 

The Montgomery County Health and Human Services received 13,200 doses in its first vaccine delivery, according to Mary Anderson, the agency’s spokesperson.  

“We need to ensure that we have doses to cover second shots for everyone who is vaccinated in the first several days of the clinics,” said Mr. Elrich. “We canceled planned clinics that we were sponsoring with MCPS (Montgomery County Public Schools) last weekend. I hope the state notices this discrepancy and increases the supply to the county government.

“There are a lot of doses sitting in freezers — not ours — around the county that are just sitting there and could be put out, and if the state would move those doses from places where they are not being used to us where we can actually use them, it would be an enormous help in speeding the rate of vaccinations in the county,” he said.

Mr. Elrich said the county only controls the vaccine doses given to it directly, not the other doses given to pharmacies, private clinics and doctors in the jurisdiction.

Sean O’Donnell, Montgomery County Health and Human Services public health emergency preparedness manager, said there has been an increase in booster shots over the last several weeks in addition to pediatric vaccinations.

As of Monday, more than 14,200 booster shots have been administered through county-sponsored clinics, Ms. Anderson said. In the last three weeks, the county has vaccinated about 20,000 children, according to Mr. Elrich. Nearly 10% of residents that have received a COVID-19 vaccine are 16 years old or younger as of Wednesday, according to county health data. This age group makes up almost 22% of the county’s total population.

Earl Stoddard, the county’s assistant chief administrative officer, said roughly 39,000 vaccine doses have been given to the county as a whole. Of those, he said about 19,700 doses have been distributed, meaning 50% of doses received into the county have not been distributed at this point. However, all doses given to the county health department were distributed, so doses that have not been distributed are sitting in pharmacies and other locations throughout the county, he said.

Mr. Stoddard said the federal government needs to do a better job of getting more vaccine doses to Maryland while the state could reassess how it distributes its allotted supply.

“We certainly encourage the state of Maryland to look at who has doses sitting in refrigerators and shift doses from them or certainly future doses not sent to them but rather to partners that are distributing the doses,” he said. “But there are other partners out there that got other doses out. We encourage them to receive doses as well in greater numbers because obviously doses in refrigerators are not going to protect our 5- to 11-year-olds during Thanksgiving and the other winter holidays.”

SEE ALSO: White House: 10% of kids have been vaccinated in 1st 2 weeks

Raymond Crowel, director of the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services, said he did receive a notice that Maryland has moved the deadline up this week for ordering vaccine doses from manufacturers and the federal government in hopes of getting doses early next week. 

However, he said the county still needs to reserve some of the 7,000 doses it received last week to guarantee it can administer second doses. While some schools are hosting pediatric vaccine clinics this week, he said the county has to hold onto most of the 7,000 doses until it receives confirmation that enough second doses will be coming in. 

Andy Owen, spokesperson for the Maryland Department of Health, said the agency expects nearly 89,000 more pediatric doses to be delivered next week for use statewide. He did not clarify if Montgomery County will be receiving any of those doses and if so, how many. 

“Like all states, we rely on the federal government to provide all COVID-19 vaccine doses,” he said. 

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Shen Wu Tan can be reached at stan@washingtontimes.com.

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