Montgomery County

Finding a COVID-19 Vaccine Appointment Is Arduous for Many in Montgomery County

The county has the largest number of 1A-eligible recipients in the state and hasn't finished vaccinating that group

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Getting an appointment for a coronavirus vaccination has been challenging anywhere in the country. Montgomery County, Maryland, is still working to give shots to people in the first eligible group, even as the state has opened eligibility for many more.

While Maryland has expanded vaccinations access to those in group 1C, which includes people age 65 and up, but Montgomery County is still working to vaccinate those age 75 and up.

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich met with Gov. Larry Hogan on Monday. He explained that the county has the largest number of 1A-eligible recipients and it hasn't finished vaccinating that group.

"The governor and his folks realized this is a problem, and it's not just a Montgomery County problem, when you get so many people trying to get vaccinated that far exceeds the supply of the vaccine," Elrich said.

Many people say making an online reservation for an appointment at any of Montgomery County's COVID-19 vaccination clinics is slow and frustrating.

"It was really hard to find a place and I am thrilled to finally get one," said Sharon Albinson, "because every place says 'no appointment,' 'no appointment,' 'no appointment'."

Montgomery County's clinics receive only half of the weekly allotment of vaccines sent to the county; hospitals and pharmacies get the other half.

Coronavirus Cases in DC, Maryland and Virginia

COVID-19 cases by population in D.C. and by county in Maryland and Virginia

Source: DC, MD and VA Health Departments
Credit: Anisa Holmes / NBC Washington

Another issue is the sheer number of websites people must navigate in search of an appointment.

"Giant has a registration portal; Adventist has a registration portal; Holy Cross has a registration portal," said Earl Stoddard, director of the county's Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. "They open up slots at different times, and you can find the information about when they open up slots on their respective websites."

A group of seven Montgomery County high school teachers this week began helping senior citizens navigate the online appointment system, searching the various websites. They registered 30 people the first day.

"Three of the seven of us are Spanish teachers, and we're bilingual," said teacher Maria Peterson. "We have also reached out to the Hispanic community, because we feel that the Hispanic community also needs this help and support."

With so many different websites to sort through, the teachers have created a spreadsheet with all the possible places where people can go to register for an appointment for a vaccination.

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