Frustration rises as vaccines sought
Eastern Shore residents frustrated by hunt for coronavirus vaccine
EASTON — With coronavirus vaccine still in short supply and vaccination clinics backlogged with appointments, some Eastern Shore residents are finding themselves repeatedly stiffarmed in their pursuit of an immunization.
Vaccine supply is being allocated across county health depar tments, local hospitals, fire houses and retail pharmacies, but uncoordinated registration systems have left thousands of names dormant on numerous waitlists, with no indication of when a shot might become available.
“It’s like a jigsaw puzzle with no pictures on it,” said Easton resident Cynthia Pyron, who has been chasing down the coronavirus vaccine in Talbot County since she preregistered with the county health department nearly a month ago.
The vaccination sites’ hands are tied by the state health department’s changing and unpredictable weekly distribution of doses among vaccinators in Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions. Appointments at the sites can’t be set until vaccine is received out of concern that the doses allocated will not be enough for those scheduled.
An employee at the Walmart in Easton told The Star Democrat the pharmacy there stopped taking names on its vaccine waitlist toward the end of January in order to accommodate the more than 1,500 people who already signed up.
“We have a waiting list to go through and we have to schedule appointments weekly based on what shots we have,” the employee said. “So our list isn’t even scheduled all the way out yet.”
The Safeway on Kent Island is sending the same message to those seeking a vaccine at its pharmacy. The website the Maryland Department of Health provides to make a vaccine appointment at the Chester grocery store leads to a grayed-out calendar and a “no availability at this time” advisory.
These are the dead ends Pyron said she has been running into in her hunt for a vaccination. During the past week she spent at least four hours a day on the phone trying to figure out where she could sign up and get vaccinated.
Pyron was able to get a shot on Tuesday morning at University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Easton, but only after she complained to a hospital executive, she said — and while she managed to get herself a dose, she said many of her friends still haven’t been able to get their hands on one.
Mike Balgley, an 80-year-old Talbot County resident, said he registered with the local health department weeks ago and didn’t realize he needed to get on multiple waitlists for a vaccination to up his chances of snagging one.
“This whole thing is just a merry-go-round,” Balgley said. “I’m 80 years old. I have heart disease. My wife is 78. She has metastatic breast cancer, and we can’t seem to get a vaccination.”
Balgley said he’s called Gov. Larry Hogan’s office, state lawmakers’ offices, the health department and the local hospital to no avail, except to get his and his wife’s names on more waitlists.
“I’ve had a terrible time trying to get one,” he said. “The state has been pathetic in not communicating this information. They’re giving (vaccine) to Walmarts and Safeways and so on. How does the public find out about it?”
Talbot Health Officer Dr. Maria Maguire said the vaccination registration process in Maryland, “unfortunately, is very decentralized and not coordinated.”
“This is true really across all the jurisdictions so we, the local health departments, have been advocating for more of a centralized registration process,” Maguire said. “We’re hoping that, for anyone who preregistered with us, that can be a one stop shop.”
The health officer said the one-and-done registration approach would require other vaccinators, such as retail pharmacies, to be willing to work with local health departments and participate in an organized vaccination system.
“But that’s the state contract, and those retail pharmacies aren’t really beholden to the local-level health departments,” she said. “There are so many different ways to sign up for an appointment. Each hospital system has its own. Local health departments are required to use a system that’s not perfect, and the new mass sites that the state is running are using a totally different system.”
Maguire said her department and others have been advocating and pushing for a more centralized approach to scheduling vaccinations. “We’re trying to make it happen. We’re trying to change that,” she said.
There are currently an estimated about 3,100 residents age 75 and older, and more than 5,000 in the 65 to 74 age group who are registered with the Talbot County Health Department and have not yet gotten a shot, a spokesperson for the department said.
The local health department has been getting 300 vaccine first-doses from MDH for the past few weeks after having its allocation reduced in half when retail pharmacies began receiving vaccine supply.
“This is much less than we request. It’s much less than we have the capacity to handle, but it’s what the state is allocating,” Maguire said. “I do keep fighting for more and trying to show that we do have the capacity. Hopefully soon there will be more vaccines available.”
As of Tuesday, 5,572 Talbot residents have gotten at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine and 1,396 have gotten two doses. Just over 3,000 of those individuals were vaccinated by the county health department.
BALTIMORE — Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh has announced a settlement against global consulting firm Mckinsey & Company. The $573 million settlement resolves opioid-related consumer protection charges arising from Mckinsey’s role in developing marketing plans for pharmaceutical companies that contributed to the nation’s opioid crisis. The settlement includes more than $12 million to be used for abatement of the opioids epidemic in Mar yland.
Mckinsey charged millions of dollars for its services as a consultant for multiple opioids manufacturers accused of engaging in unfair trade practices in marketing and selling opioids. Among other unlawful actions, Mckinsey counseled opioid manufacturers to target prescribers who were already prescribing notably high amounts of opioids to convince them to prescribe even more opioids in even greater strengths. It also encouraged resistance and opposition to pharmacy practices that were designed to curb excessive prescribing.
“Mckinsey’s advice to Purdue acted as an accelerant to the raging fire of the opioid crisis. This settlement offers a measure of accountability for that conduct,” said Attorney General Frosh. “The money from the settlement will help Marylanders and Maryland communities struggling with the devastation and loss that opioids have wrought.”
In addition to providing needed money to abate the crisis in Maryland, the settlement bars Mckinsey from advising opioids and other narcotic manufacturers in the future. The settlement also calls for Mckinsey to turn over tens of thousands of internal documents related to opioids manufacturers for public disclosure online, adopt a strict document retention plan, continue its investigation into allegations that two of its partners tried to destroy documents, and implement a strict ethics code that all partners must agree to each year.
The opioid epidemic has led to extensive harm to individuals and communities in Maryland over the last 30 years. During this time, thousands of Marylanders have died from opioids overdoses – including more than 10,000 in the last five years. On an economic level, these deaths and the horrible addictions — with which thousands upon thousands of Marylanders have struggled — have created considerable costs to the State in the form of health care, child welfare, criminal justice, and many other programs needed to address the epidemic, in addition to the loss of economic opportunity and productivity. Opioid addiction, abuse, and overdose deaths have torn families apart, damaged relationships, and eroded the social fabric of communities.
In addition to Maryland, the coalition of states announcing the settlement includes Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut,
Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, the District of Columbia, and the territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.