Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott on Thursday said Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan comments about the city’s vaccine distribution and COVID-19 relief funds were “false and misleading.”
During a press conference Thursday, Hogan unveiled state plans to work with churches and community groups to improve vaccine distribution equity in Black and Hispanic communities.
But Hogan also addressed vaccine distribution in Baltimore City, noting that the Maryland Department of Health transferred vaccine doses away from the Baltimore City Health Department, at the city health department’s request, to re-allocate to other providers.
“They weren’t utilizing them and we thought other providers could get them into the community,” Hogan said, adding that Scott wasn’t aware of the coordination between the state and city health departments.
But in his own press conference later on Thursday, Scott said Hogan’s statement was “categorically untrue.”
Scott said he personally asked Hogan for permission to transfer doses to partners who have less-complicated registration and tracking systems than the state “to support the equitable and rapid vaccination of Baltimore City residents” and the governor granted that permission.
Scott and Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa said the state’s online-only PrepMod system for registering for vaccination appointments perpetuates inequity in vaccine administration.
In response to that issue, the Baltimore City Health Department requested for doses to be transferred to certain partners to expand vaccine access for targeted populations in Baltimore City, including older adults, educators, and people experiencing homelessness, Scott said.
Dzirasa said the city’s clinical partners have helped administer vaccines to older adults off of the city’s registry, which now lists more than 20,000 older adults.
Mobile vaccination teams have also helped provide vaccines to older adults, educators, and individuals living in congregate settings as well as those experiencing homelessness, Dzirasa said.
“The channels listed above have a common thread,” she said. “They allow us to directly vaccinate target populations without forcing residents to enter into a Hunger Games-style competition through the state’s PrepMod system and the maze of additional registration and interest forms found across different healthcare systems and created by community groups. It allows us to ensure our doses are going to city residents who are eligible but that have been left behind by the state’s rollout to date.”
Hogan also said Baltimore City had turned down $8.8 million of funds meant to support the city’s vaccine equity effort.
“We’re still trying to get them to take it,” he said.
But Scott said the city declined funding from the Maryland Department of Health and instead chose to use existing processes to obtain funds directly from the federal government.
“Why would we accept funds using the state as a pass-through if we can continue to apply for 100% reimbursement directly from the federal government as we have throughout this pandemic,” he said.
Last week, Hogan said Baltimore City had received “far more [doses] than they really were entitled to.”
On Thursday, Hogan said Scott was trying to “point the finger” and blame the governor for inequitable vaccine distribution. But Scott said he and other local leaders are “simply asking him to do what governors do: lead.”
“This is a conversation that is nothing but a distraction tactic, a Jedi mind trick, to cover up the completely inequitable vaccine distribution process that we have,” Scott said.
Scott said Baltimore’s Black and Brown residents, who represent a disproportionate number of Maryland’s coronavirus cases, are “being left behind by this vaccine rollout.”
“While the governor continues to go back and forth about petty politics, people are dying from the virus,” Scott said.
“Let’s end the discussion on distractions and focus on what is important: vaccinating our residents because their lives are at stake,” he added.