The Maryland Vaccine Equity Task Force (VETF) was started to ensure all populations in the state are receiving education and access to the COVID-19 vaccine.
On Friday, April 30 Governor Larry Hogan visited Morgan State University, the largest historically black college or university (HBCU) in the state, where they were hosting a vaccination clinic for students, faculty, staff, and the broader community.
According to a news release this clinic is a part of the VETF’s partnership with the university to host a vaccination clinic three days a week and a larger effort to bring more vaccines to HBCUs.
On April 26 the VETF joined medical and public health experts at Bowie State University in a town hall to discuss the vaccine and address myths and concerns to combat hesitancy specifically within the African American community. At the end of the town hall, approximately one hundred students and community members received their first shot of the Moderna vaccine.
A survey found that 72 percent of Black and Latino Americans want to get vaccinated but 66 percent of them did not have enough information about where to get the shot. Additionally, over 20 percent said they had trouble finding helathcare and had regularly been treated with disrespect when getting health care.
Meeting Marylanders where they are is important to the VETF, which is why it has launched mobile vaccination clinics utilizing mobile vaccine buses provided by the University of Maryland School of Nursing and are staffed by the Maryland National Guard.
“We continue to expand our vaccine distribution network to maximize points of distribution in every jurisdiction, which will now include the nation’s first federally-operated mobile vaccination units,” said Governor Hogan in March. “These federal units will complement the Maryland Vaccine Equity Task Force’s mobile clinics and help us get more shots into the arms of our most vulnerable populations.”
Each bus can be used as a walk-in clinic or a drive-up site and typically stay in one location for four to five days. In that time each mobile vaccine bus can administer 250 or more vaccines a day.
These mobile vaccination buses have been in effect since February and can be found all over Maryland.
“We’re excited to be the first state in the nation to include a collaboration with FEMA in our mobile vaccination efforts, and we are pleased to offer Marylanders near the path of these units the opportunity to get vaccinated close to home,” said Acting Secretary Dennis R. Schrader of the Maryland Department of Health.
The VETF’s mission is to work with Maryland’s 24 local health departments to ensure equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to underserved, vulnerable, and hard to reach populations. It is led by Maryland National Guard Brigadier General Janeen Birckhead and has to date distributed 65,422 doses of the vaccine.
On Saturday, May 1 Governor Hogan also announced that Maryland has opened direct scheduling for all mass vaccination sites. Marylanders can now schedule an appointment to get vaccinated by visiting the site or calling the state’s COVID-19 Vaccination Support Center at 1-855-MD-GOVAX (1-855-634-6829).