State Orders Counties: Stop Prioritizing Groups for Vaccinations

The State Department of Health’s Acting Secretary has ordered county Health Officers to withdraw any prioritization of certain groups for vaccinations, and to abide only by the State’s own tiered system (meaning all classes available may receive shots).

According to Bethesda Magazine, an order issued by Acting Secretary of Health Dennis Schrader tells counties, specifically their Health Officers, to withdraw any remaining local decisions regarding the stages of COVID vaccinations, and to issue the vaccine to all classes of residents eligible under the State rules. Until now, counties had retained authority to move more slowly, based on their ability to effectively reach and serve the most vulnerable populations atop the phase-in schedule.

Health Officers failing to comply with the new State order apparently could face criminal penalties. In Maryland, each county Health Officer is a hybrid role serving both the Department of Health and the county government.

From the Bethesda Magazine article:

“All persons included in the Current Phase and all prior phases of the State Vaccine Prioritization Policy shall be eligible to receive COVID-19 Vaccines,” the order stated. “Political subdivisions shall not make orders or rules to the contrary.”

County officials in Montgomery County, interviewed in the article, had not been made aware of the order prior to its release.

As of this writing, MACo had not yet received a copy of the order issued, to further understand or explain its effects.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties