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'Distribution shouldn't feel like the Hunger Games' | Vaccine shortages worry Maryland officials

Montgomery County leaders want clarity from the state on how vaccines will be equitably distributed.

ROCKVILLE, Md. — As of Monday, individuals in the 1A, 1B and 1C groups are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Maryland. But health authorities in Montgomery County say there are not enough doses available to equitably distribute it to a population younger than 75.

The 1C group includes anyone ages 65 and older, according to the Maryland state guidelines. 

Montgomery County has become a vaccine battleground where local authorities are complaining of confusion and frustration. For instance, a state vaccination website directs users to head to Giant or CVS to try and get a vaccine. But searches Monday came up empty with no appointments or locations available. 

Another state website allows Montgomery residents to get appointments in Prince George’s County and other jurisdictions. Prince George's officials said Monday they would no longer honor appointments for people who do not live or work in the county. 

RELATED: New vaccine registration requirements in Prince George's County as non-residents book appointments

Two Montgomery council members blasted the State Health Department for allowing the situation.

“What people are understandably doing is they’re registering for every link they can find," Council Vice President Gabriel Albornoz said.  "So the residents in our county that received the shots in Prince George's County, which is from a state registration system that was forwarded to them by someone else, they’re signing up trying to get this vaccine wherever they can get it.”

Council President Tom Hucker said Maryland authorities should step in to level the playing field.

"Vaccine distribution shouldn’t feel like the Hunger Games," Hucker said. "People should not have to register at every possible public and private provider in multiple jurisdictions so that they can find a vaccine as quickly as possible. There should be one clear unified system communicated by the Maryland Department of Health. That's not too much to ask."

Chief Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said as of Monday there are 164,000 Montgomery County residents 65 and older who qualify for the vaccine under the 1C state guidelines. But the county so far has received only 30,000 vaccine doses.

Montgomery County began making appointments for people over age 75 Monday, which is the 1B category Gayles said. He could not predict when the county would begin offering vaccinations to the 1C group of adults, despite state guidelines qualifying the group now. 

Over the weekend Gayles painted a bleak picture for WUSA9, saying at the current rate of vaccine distribution it will take nearly two years to get the entire county population vaccinated.

"Something has to change," he said.

Leaders in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties both said Monday that they are hopeful the federal government under President Biden will step in with a national plan that stops pitting states and counties against each other.

No such plan has been announced by the Biden administration thus far. 

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