CHESTERTOWN — Getting an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine is a little like trying to buy tickets over the phone for your favorite recording artist’s concert.
You have to be patient and persistent, and sometimes that’s not enough.
On Tuesday at 1:30 p.m., the Kent County Health Department posted on its website that there were 330 total appointments available for vaccination clinics Feb. 1, Feb. 3 and Feb. 5. All the slots were filled in 20 minutes, according to Kent County Health Officer William Webb.
There just isn’t enough vaccine to go around, he said.
More than 2 million Marylanders now are eligible for the vaccine, including everyone 65 and older, but the state is receiving only about 10,000 doses a day from the federal government.
The imbalance between supply and demand trickles down to all the local jurisdictions.
Vaccination currently is by appointment only, and it’s on a first-come, first-served basis.
“The Kent County Health Department is committed to getting everyone vaccinated who wants to be vaccinated. We ask for the community’s patience,” Webb said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
He said priority should be given to people who are at a greater risk of becoming seriously ill if they are infected with the coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease.
According to Webb, close to 50% of Kent residents are now eligible for the vaccine in the expanded phase one. This includes the 27% who are 65 and older.
In a change from just a week ago, the KCHD clinics now are limited to people who live in Kent County or work in Kent County.
The state originally intended for all vaccination sign-ups to occur through Marylandvax.org.
“Unfortunately this interface has been buggy and unable to respond to high volumes,” Webb wrote in an email to the Kent County News.
Even so, Webb said, local health departments have been mandated to use this site for appointments. This is where the link on the KCHD website leads.
With Gov. Larry Hogan’s announcement on Tuesday that vaccination activity is spreading to the commercial and private health care sector, there are other sign-up locations.
Webb said University of Maryland Shore Regional Health is offering limited vaccinations through the Chestertown hospital. The link is www.umms.org/coronavirus/covid-vac cine/get-vaccine.
The Maryland Department of Health has set up a new aggregating site for those seeking vaccination across all providers. At this time it is the best resource to direct citizens who want a single point to start, Webb said.
The link is www.coronavirus.maryland.gov/pages/vaccine. Scroll down to the middle of the page to find the geographic search entry field.
The Kent County Health Department is offering two weeks of what Webb has described as “traveling clinics” at the firehouses in Rock Hall and Galena and the Amy Lynn Ferris Adult Activity Center in Chestertown.
There are morning sessions and afternoon sessions. The mornings are reserved for seniors who are being assisted with sign-up and transportation by partner agencies that include church groups, the Department of Aging and Meals on Wheels.
The satellite clinics started this week. According to Webb, 180 people registered for the Monday, Jan. 25 clinic in Rock Hall, another 180 for the Jan. 26 clinic in Galena and 216 for the Jan. 27 clinic at the Amy Lynn Ferris Center.
Webb said it is too early to say if he will continue with the traveling clinics beyond two weeks.
Eventually, he said, he is weighing the possibility of holding clinics four days a week at the Kent County Community Center in Worton. Two days a week would be dedicated to those receiving their first dose of the two-shot Moderna vaccine, and two days would be for those receiving their second dose.
In data provided by Webb, a total of 1,373 Kent residents had received a first dose of the vaccine through all sources as of Tuesday, Jan. 26. This represents 7.1% of the population, which compares to the 5.4% state average.
The number of Kent residents who had received a second dose was more than 200, with about 80 to 90 getting their second shot at the KCHD.
Beginning this week, the health department is starting to vaccinate those in the educational community.
Webb said 40 Kent County Public Schools staff are scheduled to get their first shot Thursday, Jan. 28 in a clinic at Kent County Middle School and 60 more are registered for the clinic Friday at Kent County High School.
All told about 250 KCPS staff have expressed an interest in being vaccinated. This includes about 70% of the school system’s full-time employees, according to Human Resources Supervisor Ed Silver. Others who have said they want to be vaccinated include athletic coaches, substitute teachers, tutors and mentors, Silver said.
Webb said he has started to reach out to the leadership of non-public schools and day care providers in the county to find out how many of their staff want to be vaccinated. They will be vaccinated at one of the clinics at the health department, he said.
Meantime, COVID-19 continues to spread in Kent.
As of press time Wednesday, Jan. 27, the number of confirmed positive cases was 1,021. Kent surpassed the grim milestone of 1,000 cases on Sunday, Jan. 24.
For the month of January, there have been nearly 300 cases.
In the last week, there have been four confirmed deaths to bring the total to 32. Two other deaths are listed as probable.
Webb identified the most recent deaths as two women in their 90s, a woman in her 70s and a man in his 80s.
The KCHD is currently tracking six outbreaks, including two congregate living facilities.