WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin led a virtual Maryland congressional delegation meeting Thursday with Senator Chris Van Hollen and Congressmen Steny Hoyer, Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, Kweisi Mfume, Andy Harris MD, Anthony Brown, David Trone and representatives of Jamie Raskin to discuss the latest information on the availability of and plans to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine across Maryland. Briefing the lawmakers on allocation and distribution plans for Marylanders were Dennis Schrader, Maryland Acting Health Secretary, and Dr. Jinlene Chan, Acting Deputy Secretary for Public Health Service, Maryland Department Health (MDH).
“Acting Secretary Schrader and Dr. Chan outlined the steps MDH has taken to prepare Maryland for the first round of vaccine distribution for hospital healthcare workers and nursing home residents and staff. As the state receives more allocations of vaccine, MDH will turn to distribution among those who are at high-risk in the general population. I encourage Acting Secretary Schrader and Dr. Chan to focus on communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 as well as well as equitable geographic distribution. We cannot allow those hardest hit by the virus to fall through the cracks. We do best as a state when we don’t leave others behind,” said Senator Cardin. “Getting vaccinated is a key piece in our fight against this deadly virus, and we will continue to encourage all Marylanders to be vaccinated as supplies become available.”
“I appreciated the opportunity to speak with Acting Secretary Schrader today to learn more about the state’s plan for vaccine distribution. Maryland is facing record numbers of COVID-19 cases, and our hospitals are quickly approaching maximum capacity. I join in thanking the thousands of selfless doctors, nurses, and health workers on the frontlines fighting this virus,” said Congressman Hoyer. “It’s imperative that every Marylander continue to take this public health emergency seriously and work to stop the spread of COVID-19. I will continue to work with my colleagues at the local, state, and federal levels to reassure our citizens of the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine and ensure every Marylander be vaccinated as quickly as possible. Until the vaccine is widespread, it’s critically important that all Marylanders remain vigilant and continue practicing social distancing and wearing their mask in public.”
“As the COVID-19 vaccine approval enters its final stages, it’s crucial that Maryland is prepared to safely, effectively, and equitably distribute it,” said Senator Van Hollen. “On today’s call, we underscored that our federal team is committed to providing any support we can in this process as well as the need for a transparent distribution plan that demonstrates how the vaccine will reach the communities hardest hit by the pandemic. We will continue working to ensure that our state has the resources necessary to address this crisis and keep Marylanders safe.”
“Today, our Congressional delegation heard more details about Maryland’s plan to distribute the long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine as the virus continues to surge at an alarming rate,” Congressman Ruppersberger said. “There are a lot of moving parts and many unanswered questions – such as how Maryland’s significant military population will affect our allocation of doses – remain. But one thing is clear: we must work together to ensure all Marylanders are vaccinated as quickly as possible in a way that is as equitable as possible. And we must all continue to do our part to stop the spread until the vaccine is available widely enough to take effect.”
“Today’s productive conversation with Acting Secretary Schrader provided our delegation with additional insight about how Maryland plans to distribute the initial COVID-19 vaccines to health care workers, long-term care facility residents and first responders,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “Our delegation remains united and intensely focused on securing enough doses to ensure that every Marylander – particularly those in our hardest-hit communities – has access to a safe and effective vaccine as we work to eliminate the virus and get to the other side of this public health crisis.”
“Our Black and brown residents across the state are much more likely to get COVID-19, be hospitalized, and die. While we are hoping for fast distribution of the vaccines, we must see to it that the allocation is equitable. Given the grossly unequal health outcomes for communities of color, Maryland’s rollout plan must address racial disparities as well as any distrust of the healthcare system,” Congressman Mfume said. “On today’s call with Acting Secretary Schrader and Dr. Chan, we underscored the need to prioritize those communities at the highest risk. I am committed to working with the Maryland Delegation, and our state and local leaders to see to it that the communities that have been hardest hit receive an adequate number of doses.”
“As a physician, I am so encouraged by the fact that hundreds of thousands of Marylanders who are at highest risk will be vaccinated before the year’s end, thanks to Operation Warp Speed,” said Dr. Harris.
“As we look toward the distribution a number of promising vaccines, we can’t lose sight of the disproportionate toll this pandemic has had on people of color and underserved communities in our state. A critical aspect of any vaccine distribution plan must prioritize the hardest hit populations in Maryland and target outreach to promote vaccination as essential to public and individual health especially in communities of color,” said Congressman Brown. “We cannot leave anyone behind in this effort. We defeat COVID-19 as one Maryland, through the equitable distribution of lifesaving vaccines.”
“I’ve been on the phone with the hospitals, health departments, and local officials from every county in my district to ensure our communities are prepared to help every Marylander get the vaccine as fast and as fairly as possible. We particularly must address the massive increase in new COVID-19 cases in Western Maryland, which now holds the highest positivity rating in Maryland,” said Congressman Trone. “I will continue to work with the Maryland federal delegation, Governor Hogan, our local leaders, and the Maryland Health Department to make sure we prioritize vaccine distribution to the groups and regions across Maryland that are being hit hardest by the pandemic.”