Md. Governor Larry Hogan responds to letter asking for answers about COVID-19 vaccine rollout
MARYLAND – An exchange of strongly worded letters between Maryland’s congressional delegation and Governor Larry Hogan over the state’s vaccination plan has local leaders weighing in. They say the crux of the matter is the frustrations that many Marylanders are experiencing as they try to figure out how to get their dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. “Unfortunately, the counties have been left holding the bag. Wicomico County is the second poorest county in the state. We just do not have the resources,” said Salisbury City Councilmember Michele Gregory.
Local leaders say that playing the blame game is not going to answer any questions about vaccine rollout. Delegate Chris Adams says real action is needed before Maryland can make any significant improvement. “I’m concerned any time we try to apply one size fits all in the state and rural parts of our state. I sense that there’s this urge to get vaccines out, and we need to do that,” said Del. Adams.
Councilmember Gregory tells 47ABC she’s troubled by what she says is a lack of response to the questions posed by the congressional leaders. “I don’t think he answered any questions, and I think his tone was not what I would have liked to have seen,” said Councilmember Gregory.
The letter sent by Congress members asked Governor Hogan to clarify how the state would keep up their supply of vaccines. It also sked the governor how confusion over how to get vaccinated and who will get it in what order will be cleared up. “There are some states out there who have got their act together. They’ve got one stop shops and websites where people can go sign up and get it done,” said Councilmember Gregory.
The letter also asked how many doses have been sent to private companies like Walmart and Giant to distribute. That’s something local lawmakers have their own issues with. “We’ve got a divided distribution system. It depends on which county you’re in for the flow of vaccines, or where the vaccines are directed,” said Delegate Johnny Mautz.
Del. Adams also expressed his doubts about whether allocating vaccines to chain stores is the right move, as local health departments are struggling to keep up with the demand. “The idea of rolling out to private businesses does not seem like the right approach, especially on the Eastern Shore as we’re just trying to get ramped up,” said Del. Adams.
Governor Hogan’s response was that Maryland is simply following federal recommendations laid out for who should be prioritized to get the vaccine, and the CDC’s Pharmacy Transfer Program. The governor wrote, “How did you not know this? Given that both the creation of the pharmacy transfer program and the recommendation to open vaccinations to individuals over 65 are actions taken at the federal level, I respectfully suggest that you address your apparent concerns to the President and his team.”
Local leaders tell 47ABC that those decisions should probably be left up to local jurisdictions, and that more transparency is needed. “The government is going to tell us they’re doing a great job. They’re going to show us the numbers or all the vaccinated people and what they’ve done. But there’s another side to that story that you’re not going to hear,” said Del. Mautz.
The governor also pointed out that Maryland went from giving out about 2,000 shots per day to 22,000 per day within a matter of weeks. “We will not rest until every Marylander who wants a vaccine can get a vaccine. You can be a part of this incredible undertaking, or you can criticize it from the cloakroom,” the governor wrote.
The governor didn’t stop here. He also encouraged the delegation to use their positions in Washington to advocate for families back in Maryland, writing, “I humbly suggest you direct your staff to spend more time reading these informative and regularly distributed materials and briefing you on their contents as opposed to writing press releases disguised as letters. Our team needs to devote their time to getting shots into Marylanders’ arms.”