Ocean Pines Hosts Virtual Town Hall On Vaccinations

Ocean Pines Hosts Virtual Town Hall On Vaccinations
Participants in last week's Town Hall are pictured.

OCEAN PINES – Discussions on vaccine allocation, distribution and waiting lists highlighted a COVID-19 virtual town hall meeting last week.

Last Thursday, the Ocean Pines Association held a virtual town hall focused on news and information regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.

The meeting, moderated by Ocean Pines Association Communications Committee Chair Jennifer Cropper Rines, featured a presentation from Worcester County Health Department Public Affairs Officer Travis Brown and questions from the audience.

“I think the main questions everyone has right now will be about COVID-19 vaccine and registration within the county,” Brown said. “Right now, as of last week, we’ve moved to a single central waiting list that includes all clinics operated by the Worcester County Health Department.”

On Feb. 2, the health department updated how it registers individuals for COVID-19 vaccine clinics with the introduction of a single central waiting list for all clinics operated by the agency.

Because vaccine supply is limited, health department officials say they do not expect to post any Worcester County Health Department clinics onto the statewide registration website, MarylandVax.org, for the next several weeks. Instead, the agency is directing anyone who would like to get a COVID-19 vaccine and is eligible, to call 667-253-2140 so staff can manually add their names to the central waiting list.

As of last Thursday, Brown said, the central waiting list had grown to include roughly 5,000 registrants eligible for the vaccine under phases 1A, 1B or 1C of Maryland’s distribution plan. He noted the health department continues to work through that waiting list as vaccines become available.

“It’s a mixture of first-come-first-serve and then by age,” Brown said. “So anyone who is over the age of 65, the earlier you signed up the earlier you will get a call or message indicating there is a spot available. We do also have allocation set aside each week from the amount we receive from the state for educators. That’s usually a third of what we receive.”

Currently, the health department receives about 300 doses of the Moderna vaccine each week, Brown said. However, demand continues to exceed supply.

“The allocation is done by population,” he said. “Our year-round population is about 52,000 or 54,000. Our seasonal population is somewhere north of 250,000. Our belief is that we are getting a lot more than our general population people coming to schedule the vaccine. So using that 52,000 number isn’t really fair in terms of how much we’re being allocated, so we have requested to get more.”

Officials and town hall participants applauded the health department’s efforts. As of last Thursday, Worcester County had the second-highest percentage of residents who had received the first dose of the vaccine.

“We are second to Kent County,” said Del. Wayne Hartman. “But you have to understand our population is almost three times that of Kent County. So you guys are truly doing an amazing job.”

When asked if the central waiting list included clinics offered at local pharmacies and retail stores, Brown said it did not.

“Each entity has their own waitlist and procedure all operating under the same phase system and rules,” he said.

Resident Susan LaRue also asked if an individual had to be a Worcester County resident to receive a vaccine through the health department. Brown noted it was a topic on which the health department was seeking clarification from the state.

“At this time, no,” he said. “The directive that we have gotten from the state, as far as we understand it, is that because the vaccine is a Maryland resource and because it’s coming from a federal program, we are not supposed to put hard residency restrictions on who can sign up for a COVID vaccine.”

Brown also fielded questions about the state’s phased vaccination plan. He said Phase 2 – which includes those ages 16 to 64 at increased risk for COVID-19 illness and certain essential workers – would be introduced once a majority of Phase 1 had been vaccinated.

“We don’t have a timeline yet for when we expect to get to Phase 2,” he said. “The understanding is it will likely be a state shift, that we will more or less be moving together.”

For more information on local COVID-19 vaccination clinics, visit www.worcesterhealth.org. To register for the health department’s waiting list, call 667-253-2140.

“We are, here on the shore, one of the leading areas in terms of getting those doses out,” Brown said. “Not a single drop has spoiled or not been used effectively. So any doses we get we are making sure and committed to getting those shots into arms, immediately and efficiently.”

A video of last week’s town hall meeting can be found on the Ocean Pines Association YouTube page. Participants included Hartman, Worcester County Commissioner Chip Bertino and Pat Schrawder, district representative for Sen. Mary Beth Carozza.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.