January 29, 2021

Maryland Congressional Delegation Strongly Urges Governor to Improve COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Across the State, Eliminate Inequities

“We will continue to push for more federal coordination, communication, and any additional support necessary to strengthen our state’s vaccine rollout.”

WASHINGTON – Members of Maryland’s congressional delegation, including U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Congressmen Steny Hoyer, Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, Kweisi Mfume, Anthony Brown, Jamie Raskin and David Trone (All D-Md.), wrote to Governor Larry Hogan and Acting Maryland Health Secretary Dennis Schrader on Friday urging them to increase outreach and communication surrounding the flawed rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine across the state. “Right now, there is dwindling confidence in the process and limited belief that vaccine access is equitable. Specifically, we ask the state to collaborate with trusted community leaders to quickly implement education and outreach plans to increase vaccinations in communities of color,” the lawmakers wrote.

The full letter follows.

January 29, 2021

 

The Honorable Lawrence J. Hogan, Jr.

The Honorable Dennis Schrader

Governor of the State of Maryland

Acting Secretary

State House

Maryland Department of Health

100 State Circle

201 West Preston Street

Annapolis, MD 21401

Baltimore, MD 21201

 

 

Dear Governor Hogan and Acting Secretary Schrader:

We are in the middle of a public health crisis that requires transparency and clear communication with Marylanders about vaccines and other tools necessary to combat the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). We urge the state to carry out a comprehensive outreach and communications strategy to reverse the struggles associated with the initial rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. Such a strategy is essential to promoting Marylanders’ confidence in the vaccinations process and confirming there is equitable access to the vaccine. Right now, there is dwindling confidence in the process and limited belief that vaccine access is equitable. Specifically, we ask the state to collaborate with trusted community leaders to quickly implement education and outreach plans to increase vaccinations in communities of color.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, COVID-19 has disproportionately affected communities of color, specifically Black and Latino residents in our state.  For example, Black residents account for approximately 33 percent of Maryland’s COVID-19 cases and 35 percent of the deaths from the disease; Latino residents account for 19 percent of infections and 9 percent of fatalities. Community organizations and clergy around the state remain concerned about vaccine hesitancy, borne out of a distrust and lack of confidence in institutions that have disproportionately overlooked people of color. With higher infection and death rates among communities of color, it is essential that these communities have equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

As you know, promoting public trust in a COVID-19 vaccine is essential to saving lives and eventually achieving herd immunity. We are requesting any detailed information you can provide on the state’s outreach strategy in light of the influx of new funding from the federal government. It is incumbent on the state and federal government to partner with local elected leaders to execute a strong vaccination strategy, including, but not limited to transparent communication with the public, given Maryland’s slow early performance and rollout compared to other states. 

We also urge that any current or future communications strategy include clear-cut instructions on scheduling vaccines for various groups across jurisdictions and phases of the vaccine distribution process. Sharing adequate, accurate information with our constituents in this incredibly trying time is critical to assuaging their fears, and is among our most important jobs as public servants. We hope that your communication plan includes robust outreach and multilingual messaging to meet communities where they are—especially those that have been historically underserved and undercounted.

With the Biden Administration, we will continue to push for more federal coordination, communication, and any additional support necessary to strengthen our state’s vaccine rollout. We continue to stand with you and local leaders as partners in this effort and look forward to working collaboratively to address the needs of all Marylanders.

 

Sincerely,

 

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