“Make a mess”: sharing links, rumor mill erases vaccine clinic in Montgomery Co.
Since the end of January, given the limited supply of vaccine doses, clinics run by the county have been prioritizing residents aged 75 and over for vaccine appointments. Here’s what you need to know.
Officials in Montgomery County, Md., Say they continue to fight rumors and misinformation about who can get a COVID-19 shot in the county and the inappropriate sharing of messy date links work to vaccinate the most vulnerable county residents.
Since the end of January, given the limited supply of vaccine doses, clinics run by the county have given priority only to residents aged 75 and over for vaccine appointments.
But reports on social media indicated that large groups of people showed up Thursday morning to be vaccinated at one of the county clinics at Richard Montgomery High School, including teachers and people under the age of 75.
This was apparently the result of poorly shared appointment links and misinformation that teachers and walk-in visits were being made to the site, according to health worker Dr Travis Gayles.
“There was apparently a significant number of people who showed up at one of our sites today – and weren’t happy when they were turned away,” Gayles said in an online briefing with journalists.
One of the people who showed up at the high school site was Diane Nemeth, 70, of Silver Spring. She said she knew the county prioritizes people 75 and over, but got a link to the state’s dating portal from a mailing list she was given. transmitted.
“Since this was a state website, I thought I had a chance,” Nemeth said.
She lined up in the snow with other people queuing for blocks, until someone came over and said that people who are not 75 or older should go home.
The county has made it clear in recent weeks that people wishing to be vaccinated at a county-run clinic must pre-register with the county and must be 75 years of age or older, Gayles said.
Part of the problem is that once residents pre-register and receive links to make an appointment, those links are shared with others – and, in some cases, widely shared.
Gayles said he heard from officials in other counties that links were displayed on group mailing lists and mailing lists, creating a ‘free for all’ instead of the orderly process that local health departments are aiming for. .
County director Marc Elrich said link sharing remained an issue. It “creates a mess of who can actually get the vaccine,” he said – and it prevents people 75 and over from getting appointments “because those appointments were made by someone else “.
The appointment links are generated by a state-run site known as PrepMod, which the county is required to use by the state. Even though the state-run system asks users to indicate their age, it doesn’t kick them out if they’re not 75 or older.
Gayles staff, meanwhile, cannot screen all registrants under the age of 75, as health workers are also still eligible for vaccination. “We’re trying to sort it out,” Gayles said.
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County officials have been pressuring the state for weeks to come up with a software fix to the link sharing issue, and at least one fix is underway. The system is being adjusted so that each link can only be used by one person.
In the meantime, Gayles and other county officials are urging residents to be responsible: If you’re not 75 or older, don’t make an appointment at a county-run site, even if someone shares one. link with you.
But Montgomery County resident Rick Crump said officials needed to “clear this up.”
“We have been very clear on who is eligible and the priorities at the different sites,” Gayles said. “And if you know you don’t meet these criteria and still register, how can you ultimately be upset when you show up to the place where we remind you that you are not eligible to receive this?” vaccine? And, in fact, you create a system where you make an appointment with someone who meets the criteria, and that slows down the process.
Crump, 65, said his daughter shared a bond with his wife, and when they pulled up there were people there who had been waiting for an hour and had more to do, he said.
“I’m not trying to get ahead of anyone. I don’t want special treatment. Just tell me what to do, and when the time comes, let it happen, ”Crump said.
Even though the state changed the eligibility guidelines last month to include people aged 65 and over, the county is not receiving enough doses from the state to perform more widespread vaccinations, Elrich said.
Last week, the county health department received about 5,500 initial doses for distribution. This week, the county received approximately 4,500 doses.
Elrich said the county continued to prioritize residents 75 and older because this group has the highest death rate. “They were seen as the top priority for a reason,” Elrich said.
So far, over the course of about two and a half weeks, about 27,000 county residents aged 75 and over have received doses of the vaccine, according to county data. But that’s just over a third of the county’s total population aged 75 and over.
If the doses provided to the county do not increase, Elrich said it would take another 10 weeks to complete the vaccination of the county’s oldest residents.
The growing number of private providers, such as hospitals and pharmacies, who receive doses of the vaccine and who can immunize 65- to 74-year-olds, as well as teachers, adds to the confusion. (In total, about 10,000 doses per week go to these other providers, county officials said.)
If these other providers, such as hospitals and pharmacies, would commit to setting aside half of their allocations to specifically target those 75 and over, Elrich said it would take about half the time to complete the vaccination. every 75+ eligible residents – approximately five weeks.
“It will be a very long wait for people if we are to rely on the amount of doses that the county itself is receiving,” he added.
For now, given the lower number of vaccine doses – and there are approximately 300,000 eligible Montgomery County residents as part of the first phase of vaccine deployment – delivering doses to a group rather than to another is a zero sum game.
“It’s the problem of making everyone eligible when the offer is this low,” Elrich said. “We would like to make these vaccines eligible for everyone. We just don’t have the supply to do it.
Earl Stoddard, director of the county’s homeland security and emergency management office, added: hearing so many people over the age of 75 who haven’t had a chance yet and are desperate to get one one also. And so, every meeting a teacher makes is one that a 75-year-old doesn’t get.
Kate Ryan of OMPP contributed to this report.