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Prince George's County blames access, supply for its slow vaccine progress

WUSA-TV Washington, D.C. logo WUSA-TV Washington, D.C. 3/4/2021 Matthew Torres
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Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said the local health department has the infrastructure and capability of administering 2,000 vaccines per day, but ongoing lack of supply is inhibiting progress. 

Alsobrooks provided an update on Thursday about the vaccine distribution plan as Prince George's County remains last in Maryland in immunizing residents. With more than 73,000 positive COVID-19 cases since the pandemic started, the county has only been able to vaccinate just over 8% of the population, according to the state vaccine data dashboard

"Vaccine supply is the biggest limiting factor in being able to quickly vaccinate Prince Georgians," Alsobrooks said. 

The top county official said she'd like to see a bump in doses by 50% from the state or at least set aside a day at the mass vaccination sites for Prince Georgians to exclusively receive the vaccine. 

Vaccine equity remains a problem in the county, but officials said hesitancy isn't the root issue. While there are suspicions from some residents in getting the shot, Alsobrooks said lack of access is creating a setback for most people of color who actually want the vaccine. About 118,000 Prince Georgians have signed up on the preregistered list, and the guaranteed 4,400 doses coming from the state every week hopes to relieve the demand. 

"Unfortunately, the narrative has become that black and brown people are being vaccinated at lower rates because they don't want the vaccine," Alsobrooks said. "The main issue right now is lack of access."

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The county set a record last week by administering nearly 8,000 doses. It received 4,800 first doses for this week on top of the 1,400 doses of the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine. In total, Maryland was slated to receive 49,600 doses of the J&J vaccine. 

There are efforts to help increase activity in providing better access to residents, including utilizing more faith-based partners and having the University of Maryland Medical System host vaccine clinics at First Baptist Church of GlenArden. There will also be pop-up clinics around the county including certain churches. 

The vaccination clinic at the Wayne Curry Sports & Learning Complex will be temporarily closed from March 14 through March 28 for a scheduled maintenance, but two more sites will open at Kentland Community Center on March 8 and Cedar Heights Community Center on March 15.

Alsobrooks is also calling on a mass vaccination site at the University of Maryland to address nearby zip codes hardest hit by the pandemic.

The three mobile clinics will still be incorporated to reach senior citizens at their homes. 

"The more sites open the more opportunity get shots for residents," Deputy Chief Administrator Dr. George Askew said."

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Alsobrooks addressed the ongoing issues with shared links when signing up for an appointment through the state's website. The system PrepMod isn't able to filter out certain criteria and many who are ineligible to receive the vaccine is able to book an appointment. 

The goal is to transition away from the state's website and use a system from the local health department. 

Since the start of the pandemic, 7,477 people have been hospitalized and more than 1,300 residents have died. 

The number of cases continues to see a slow decline with just 1,000 new cases last week, the lowest since October. 

The average daily case rate is below critical level with the average positivity rate being at 4.4% as of late February, down from 7% a month ago. 

RELATED: Maryland uses texting to book COVID vaccine appointments for Prince George's County residents

RELATED: Gov. Hogan declares March 5 COVID-19 Day of Remembrance in Maryland

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