Senate President Bill Ferguson is not satisfied with Maryland’s rollout of its allotment coronavirus vaccines and on Tuesday he announced the formation of a workgroup that will oversee the Department of Health’s stewardship of that role.
Ferguson pointed to CDC data that said Maryland has received about 565,000 vaccines from the federal government and that about 370,000 vaccines have yet to be used. Ferguson noted that after the department had pledged to put out 12,000 doses per day that there were two days last weekend when the department fell far short of that number. Ferguson blamed Acting Health Secretary Dennis Schrader for the arguably slow rollout and confusion over the state’s vaccination plan.
“Today I am establishing a vaccination oversight workgroup. We plan to hold Acting Secretary Schrader to the same standard announced by his predecessor. And we will do so through weekly meetings of the vaccination oversight workgroup,” Ferguson said in an online press gaggle.
Ferguson added: “There are four critical and fundamental questions that the workgroup will focus on. First, we will ask: Are Marylanders being vaccinated efficiently? To understand this, we will be requiring the department to provide information such as the daily number of vaccines administered, the average wait time to receive vaccines, and the number of trained vaccinators. The second overall question is whether the supply chain is working. We need to know the number of vaccine kits available, the expected or anticipated number of vaccine kits, the PPE supply, and burn rate…Our third question, does demand exceed supply?… Finally, and perhaps most critically-is the question of whether there will be access and confidence in minority communities.”
On January 13, Gov. Larry Hogan nominated Schrader Secretary of the Department of Health. Schrader has served as acting secretary of the department since the retirement of then-Health Secretary Robert Neall on Nov. 30. Schrader previously served as Acting Health Secretary in 2017 and as Deputy Secretary for Healthcare Financing and Chief Operating Officer from 2018 to 2020. Hogan nominated Schrader health secretary in 2017 but he later withdrew the nomination when it failed to gain traction in the Senate. The upper chamber’s Executive Nominations Committee will have the final say on whether Schrader becomes Health Secretary.
Ferguson said that as things stand right now Schrader does not deserve to be be confirmed.
“When it comes to the secretary’s confirmation the reason we are standing this up is because we owe an obligation to Marylanders to ensure that this vaccination program is effective. Right now I don’t think we can say that it is…I don’t think it would be fair to confirm the acting secretary with where we are with the vaccination program. We hope that it changes and that is why we are meeting every week over the next ten weeks to assess the progress.”
Hogan, who received the vaccine this week, has also expressed concern about the pace of the state’s vaccine rollout and said he has taken several steps aimed at speeding things up.