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'We Are Ready' | Local Maryland Health Officials Frustrated At Lack of COVID-19 Vaccine As Mass Vaccination Sites Are Set to Open

RANDALLSTOWN, Md. (WJZ) -- Baltimore County opened a new vaccination center at the Randallstown Community Center but admitted they do not have enough vaccine right now to meet demand. 500 doses were administered there Thursday.

"You can see we are ready. Why the place is so empty right now is the lack of vaccine," said Baltimore County Health Officer Dr. Gregory Branch.


County Executive Johnny Olszewski said the state provided approximately 3,000 fewer doses this week than last but assured residents, "We will save lives, and we will come through this."

Local health departments statewide have complained the number of doses they are receiving from the state has been cut almost in half as Maryland is set to open mass vaccination sites—including one opening Friday at the Baltimore City Convention Center and another at Six Flags in Prince George's County.


Dr. Branch is also a COVID survivor. "COVID is one of those diseases that I would not wish on my worst enemy," he said.


He spoke about building trust in minorities in communities. In Baltimore County, despite African Americans being 30 percent of the population, only 11 percent have registered for vaccinations. He said members of the Latinx community, who account for 10 percent of the population, only represented one percent of those registered for vaccinations.


"There's a lot of history when it comes to persons of color and how they were treated in medicine. I know it happened. I'm not going to negate what happened. I'm just going to stand here today in 2021 and say as your health officer, 'This is not an experiment.' As your health officer, I am recommending it. And I recommend that everyone gets it. I started out with myself first," Dr. Branch said.

Among those getting vaccinated in Randallstown Thursday included leaders of New Shiloh Baptist Church. Dr. Harold Carter, Junior and his wife, Reverend Monique Carter, said their son recovered from the virus. He became very ill despite being in his early 20s with no underlying conditions. "I became the caretaker for him. We were blessed that he made it through. It is a very vicious virus. Since the vaccine came out, I did not hesitate," Reverend Monique Carter told WJZ.

In Baltimore City, the health department is so short on vaccines, it is not taking any more first-dose appointments.


Councilman Yitzy Schleifer said in a Facebook Live video, "We will be holding a hearing to find out where those vaccines have gone, who they went to, how they got to them and what the process is."

He was also upset the city's health department closed the testing site at the Zeta Center in Park Heights for bad weather, turning many away despite sunny, above-freezing temperatures during the day. "That is just not acceptable," Schleifer said. "...We need to stop making up bogus excuses like blaming the weather."

He noted the convention center remained open for testing. "For some reason, somebody felt that the weather in Park Heights was going to be different than the weather in downtown Baltimore."

The Baltimore City Health Department provided the following statement to WJZ:

"Every day, our COVID-19 testing team meets to discuss operations including the possibility of inclement weather closures. After conducting a site visit Wednesday afternoon, and witnessing icy conditions on the ground of the parking lot of the Zeta Center, and after reviewing meteorological reports of below freezing Thursday morning temperatures, our team decided to postpone testing today in consideration of potential safety challenges that might be created by the weather. The Health Department will continue to provide testing services at the Zeta Center, and those residents seeking a test today can visit the Baltimore City Convention Center this afternoon, or return to the Zeta Center when we resume testing next week."

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department's website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ's coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

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