RANDALLSTOWN, Md. (WJZ) — As they opened the first COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Baltimore County, local officials urged people to continue to take the virus seriously ahead of Super Bowl Sunday.
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski asked residents to not host or attend large gatherings during the Super Bowl this weekend, instead encouraging people to order takeout and watching the game from home.READ MORE: COVID-19 In Maryland: 932 New Cases Reported, 11 More Deaths
Though they were encouraged by the fast-moving lines and capacity to give out 500 additional vaccines a day at the Randallstown Community Center, they said they are still not getting enough vaccines from the state.
About 74,000 Baltimore County residents have received their first doses of the vaccine, with about 18,000 getting a second dose so far. This week, the county received 4,825 doses from the state, nearly 3,000 fewer than last week.
- Coronavirus Resources: How To Get Help In Maryland
- TIMELINE: Coronavirus In Maryland, Tracking The Spread
- Latest coronavirus stories from WJZ
- Latest CDC Guidelines
Meanwhile, more than 200,000 Baltimore County residents have registered to get the vaccine. They said adding a second site on the west side of the county is a “critical step” and also are making plans to expand to a third site on the East side of the county in the near future.
The county executive said that while they have the capacity to vaccinate the more than 200,000 people that have registered so far — along with even more educators who have registered — the problem is they are facing a “very limited supply of the vaccine.”
He also addressed disparities in vaccine distribution nationwide, saying Baltimore County is no different.
“In all of our 205,000 people on the registry, only 11% are African American,” Olszewski said, addressing that the African American population is 30% in the county. He went on to say that Baltimore County Latino and Hispanic residents account for only 1% of registrants despite making up 10% of the population.
“These numbers are particularly concerning when you consider that communities of color nationwide have also been disproportionately impacted by the virus,” Olszewski said.READ MORE: 'An Incredible Therapy' | Hagerstown Doctor Says Monoclonal Antibody Treatment Provides Fast Recoveries For Some COVID Patients
He said while they cannot point to any “single reason” for those disparities, they acknowledged concerns about access to computers and the internet, both of which are necessary to make an appointment through the state’s system. Another factor he brought up: many people of color have been more reluctant to receive the vaccine.
“They have legitimate questions, including whether the vaccine is safe,” Olszewski said. “We think it’s important for them to hear from voices they trust.”
He said because of this, they were joined Thursday by members of the Baltimore County faith community and school board officials, who will be sharing testimonials of their own experiences to reach “every community” and assure the public of the vaccine’s safety.
Baltimore County Health Officer Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch also encouraged everyone to complete the vaccine registry, especially African Americans.
He acknowledged concerns on how people of color have been treated in regards to medicine, saying that while he was able to escape the disease, many others are not able to, making the vaccine that much more important.
“I’m not going to negate what happened. I’m just going to stand here today in 2021 and say as your health officer this is not an experiment. As your health officer, I am recommending, and I recommend that everyone gets it, and I started with myself first.” he said. “So I would not have given it to myself, I wouldn’t have had someone give it to me, if I felt that there was something wrong with it, so I implore everyone please come out.”
He said they are ready to vaccinate as many people as possible- they just need more vaccines.
“We would just continue to urge the federal government, the state government to give us the vaccines,” he said.
Dr. Branch said the supply remains “extremely limited” and that because of this it is unclear when Baltimore County will be able to begin vaccinating people in Phase 1C, since many 75+ people have not yet been vaccinated.MORE NEWS: Rockville Police Officer, Maryland National Guardsman Daniel Morozewicz Arrested On Child Porn Charge