ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Maryland officials Thursday announced what they called the first COVID-19 vaccine equity operations plan of any state to ensure vaccines are distributed equitably in the state.

During a news conference, Gov. Larry Hogan and Maryland National Guard Brigadier General Janeen Birckhead said the vaccine equity task force will serve vulnerable and underserved communities by partnering with community groups and others to increase access to the vaccine.

READ MORE: Now That Students Have Returned To The Classroom, One Question Remains: Are Children Safe?

Communities will be able to submit proposals requesting vaccination sites. As the community comes forward with proposals for vaccinations, the task force will weigh a number of criteria, including distribution disparities, to determine if a clinic can be opened.

The effort is designed to be more flexible rather than a one-size-fits-all approach and will be able to address needs more quickly. Birckhead said opening a community site will take less time than a large-scale mass vaccination site.


One new community site set to open as part of the task force’s efforts is in Upper Marlboro. Hogan said that site will be able to administer 900 vaccinations per day.

Maryland will also work with FEMA on the Eastern Shore and in western Maryland for mobile vaccine sites, Birkhead said.

In recent weeks, officials have been criticized over vaccine equity within vulnerable residents and communities of color.

During a press conference earlier this week, Hogan said: “We’ve been very focused on equity, that’s why we made some announcements very early on. We appointed [Birckhead] to head a task force. We asked all of our local partners, particularly in Baltimore City and in Prince George’s County, to work with us on an equity plan.”

READ MORE: COVID-19 Vaccination Efforts Continue Saturday In Areas Of Baltimore Hit Hardest

The Baltimore Convention Center mass vaccination site announced Monday it will expand its focus and prioritize vaccinating underserved communities in the city.

“It’s why we announced our equity effort with all of the leaders in Baltimore City about a month ago,” Hogan said. “It’s why we set up two mass vaccination sites there, too. I just said we’re making the convention center focused on Baltimore City residents.”

“We’ve done far better than most other states in the country with respect to that, but it’s not good enough,” Hogan added.

WATCH: Gov. Hogan’s Full News Conference

War of Words

During the news conference, Hogan claimed Baltimore turned down $9 million in COVID-19 relief funding. Mayor Brandon Scott responded Wednesday in a letter to Acting Deputy Health Secretary Jinlene Chan, saying the city would apply for the money directly through FEMA instead of having the money pass through the state.

During a news conference Thursday afternoon, Scott called Hogan’s comments a distraction and a “Jedi mind trick.”

Hogan also said the state transferred vaccine doses away from the city’s health department and to other providers at the city’s request 30 times. Scott said the city instead relied on hospitals to help vaccinate older adults who couldn’t navigate the online registration system.

Scott has also sought to get some COVID-19 vaccine doses directly from the federal government instead of from the state.

MORE NEWS: Rate Of BMI Increase In Children Nearly Doubled During Pandemic, Study Finds

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.