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New vaccine appointments on hold in Montgomery County

Weather-related supply disruptions are slowing the vaccine response as critics call for Maryland to release second dose reserves.

ROCKVILLE, Md. — Montgomery County’s health department has suspended making any new appointments for first doses of COVID-19 vaccinations due to the national supply chain disruption caused by this week’s snow and ice. Health authorities say there is enough vaccine on hand to carry through the weekend, but after that, first dose vaccinations will be on hold until further notice. 

The last 1,600 first doses will be given Saturday at Richard Montgomery High School and Sunday at Quince Orchard High School to people whose appointments were postponed by Thursday’s winter storm. 

No new first dose appointments will be booked after that, until the county is assured new shipments of vaccine are on their way,  according to Mary Anderson the spokesperson for the Montgomery County Health and Human Services Department.

RELATED: Vaccine cancellations possible in Prince George’s County as winter weather hammers national supply chain

In Prince George’s County, at least 4,100 people with first dose appointments originally scheduled for Friday through the weekend will have to be rescheduled some time within the next two weeks, according to George Lettis, spokesman for the Prince George’s County Health Department.

 Prince George’s County will continue to give scheduled second dose shots, because the county has held enough vaccine in reserve to cover the obligation, Lettis said.

RELATED: Virginia only has a day's supply of first vaccine doses left, and the next shipment is delayed

Some Maryland legislators say Maryland’s policy of reserving second doses is a mistake.

“There has been hoarding both by hospitals and health departments," Maryland State Senator Jim Rosapepe (D-Prince George's County), said. "I understand why they're doing it, because they panicked as a result of the chaos in the Trump administration and the chaos at the state health department when they didn't know when they were going to get doses.”

But Rosapepe said it's more important to vaccinate more people earlier, while holding back a smaller reserve to cover disruptions like the weather-related delays being experienced this week.

"Getting people vaccinated as fast as possible is critical to all of our health," Rosapepe said. "Even if we're not vaccinated, having other people vaccinated helps reduce the spread. There's a race against the mutations to get people vaccinated."

Currently, Maryland has 204,071 second doses on hand, according to the Maryland Department of Health Vaccine Portal.

Maryland's policy allows for the release of reserved second doses after 42 days if a recipient does not claim the shot, according to Maryland's Department of Health.

"If a dose is not going to be claimed, it should be put to use," Department of Health Spokesman Charles Gischlar said in an email to WUSA9. "Accordingly, we have added a new point to our latest weekly guidance bulletin on page three: “Second doses should not be held or saved for patients who have not returned after 42 days following their first dose; providers may use only those second doses as first doses.”

A spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan said there is no holdback policy for second doses in Maryland.

"I know Sen. Rosapepe keeps talking about this, but I cannot emphasize enough: there is absolutely no such policy of that nature," spokesman Michael Ricci said.  "It is a public health imperative that patients have access to their second doses in keeping with the schedule laid out in CDC guidelines."

RELATED: 'Maryland Vaccine Hunters' | Facebook group gains momentum helping seniors find appointments

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