Montgomery County Council with Dr. Travis Gayles, county health officer, and Dr. Earl Stoddard, head of emergency management, discussing vaccinations.
Black people make up 19 percent of the County’s population, but account for only eight percent of people pre-registering for vaccinations to combat COVID; Latino people also make up one-fifth of the county’s population, but make up just nine percent of people pre-registering. White people, who make up 43 percent of the population, account for 66 percent of those pre-registering to receive vaccinations.
“Black residents are dying at higher rates and we’re not getting vaccinated. Our Latino population has also been disproportionately affected by this disease,” said Will Jawando, who with the rest of County Council wrote to Gov. Larry Hogan last week, highlighting the racial inequities in vaccine distribution.
“When you look within the county, you see real serious disparities,” said County Executive Marc Elrich, a couple days before giving his virtual state of the county address on Friday, March 5, the grim one year anniversary of Covid in Montgomery County.
And the actual distribution of the vaccine across the state from the Maryland Department of Health COVID-19 Vaccination Dashboard shows worse disparities, according to Montgomery County documents.
“We need a statewide approach that factors in race and ethnicity. We want everyone to have access and it needs to be done in a targeted way,” said Jawando.
“Unfortunately, we are seeing the same trend of racial inequity in both the vaccine distributions and pre-registration system,” according to the letter from the full Council.
Among people aged 45-54, Black and Latino death rates are at least six times higher than that for whites. Black people are dying from COVID-19 at approximately the same rate as white people who are more than 10 years older, according to data from the Brookings Institute.
“People of color not only die from COVID-19 at the highest rates, they die younger,” according to the Council letter.
The latest CDC data on COVID-19 deaths and projections from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluations estimate that U.S. life expectancy has dropped by 1.1 years. However, life expectancy for Black people dropped 3.6 years and 2.5 years for Latino people.
The Council wants all vaccine distributors to be fully transparent and report distributions based on race, age and zip code on a weekly basis.
“Many retail outlets and pharmacies have no protocol or accountability for racial equity in their distribution process. The first-come, first-serve system that is used is inherently titled towards those with access,” according to the Council. “It is clear that our vaccine registration systems must immediately be revised to include a prioritization based on race and ethnicity.”
The Council wants the Department of Health and Human services and county government to coordinate on the selection of a mass vaccine site in Montgomery County.
“If we are provided the vaccines, we will open up a mass vaccination site in the County. We’re ready to do it,” said Elrich, at last week’s press conference.
This week, Council president Tom Hucker and vice president Gabe Albornoz reiterated the need for a mass vaccination site in Montgomery County.
“It is imperative that our COVID-19 response provides equitable access to health care that includes a vaccine registration and distribution system that prioritizes our communities of color who are most negatively impacted. We cannot wait any longer; the time to act is now,” according to the Council.
On Tuesday, March 9, Montgomery County reported that 187,164 people have received their first vaccination (17.8 percent of the population) and 93,895 people have been fully vaccinated (8.9 percent of the population).