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Brown, Hoyer Call for FEMA Vaccination Site in Prince George’s County

Prince George’s County faces chronic staffing, bandwidth, and resource shortages that are harming equitable vaccine distribution, particularly for communities of color.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Anthony G. Brown (MD-04) and Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (MD-05) wrote the Biden-Harris Administration’s Acting  Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Regional Director Janice Barlow requesting a federally run vaccination site in Prince George’s County.

President Biden announced that he would deploy federal resources and mobilize FEMA to stand up at least 100 vaccination sites across the nation. The state of Maryland has been selected to receive FEMA support. The Members argue that Prince George’s County faces chronic staffing, bandwidth, and resource shortages that are harming equitable vaccine distribution, particularly for communities of color. 

Governor Hogan’s haphazard and decentralized vaccine strategy has resulted in only 3.5% of Prince George’s population being vaccinated – by far the lowest vaccination rate across Maryland’s counties.

“The state of Maryland’s vaccine program thus far has been especially uncoordinated. The state’s decentralized strategy and lack of guidance have left counties competing with one another for resources and vaccine doses,” the Members wrote. “These circumstances have exacerbated long standing health disparities and put the county at a disadvantage as it tries to meet the needs of its residents and protect their health in this public health crisis. In the face of these challenges, Prince George’s County would benefit greatly from a federally coordinated and easily accessible site.”

The Members continued, “Living and working across borders in the NCR has added yet another layer of confusion. The cross-jurisdictional nature of the DMV region and the high number of federal employees in Prince George’s County call for coordinated, federal support and a central, federally run site in the county.”

Full letter is included below.

February 4, 2021

Dear Acting Regional Administrator Barlow: 

Thank you for your ongoing work to respond to the COVID-19 public health crisis. On January 21, 2021, President Biden announced that he directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to establish 100 federally-supported vaccination sites. We write to you requesting that a mass vaccination site be set up in Prince George’s County Maryland. 

Widespread immunity via mass vaccination campaigns is the single, most effective path to defeating COVID-19 and returning to pre-pandemic life. It is critical that the federal government play a central role in supporting and coordinating the nation’s efforts to vaccinate Americans. The Trump administration failed to provide states and local jurisdictions with the support and resources they needed to help launch one of the most ambitious vaccination campaigns in American history. As a result, states have been left to their own devices and local jurisdictions have been forced to compete with one another for vaccines. Much of this could have been avoided had the Trump administration allowed the federal government to play a central role in vaccine distribution and administration. 

We were relieved that President Biden plans to take the necessary steps to increase the federal government’s role in managing the nation’s vaccine program. On his first day in office, President Biden announced that he would deploy federal resources and mobilize FEMA to stand up at least 100 vaccination sites across the nation. The U.S. government would also staff and operate these vaccination sites to help state and local areas administer COVID-19 vaccines as expeditiously as possible. We were pleased to learn from recent reports that the state of Maryland has been selected to receive FEMA support. This is absolutely critical for helping states and local health departments face chronic staffing, bandwidth, and resource shortages. 

The state of Maryland’s vaccine program thus far has been especially uncoordinated. The state’s decentralized strategy and lack of guidance have left counties competing with one another for resources and vaccine doses. Prince George’s County and its residents have borne much of the consequences of Maryland’s inefficient and inequitable vaccine roll out. Prince George’s—one of the largest minority majority counties in the country—has been hit particularly hard by COVID-19; since the start of the public health crisis, the county has consistently seen the highest rates of infection, hospitalizations, and deaths in Maryland. Yet, despite these facts, only 3.5% of Prince George’s population has been vaccinated – by far the lowest vaccination rate across Maryland’s counties.  These circumstances have exacerbated long standing health disparities and put the county at a disadvantage as it tries to meet the needs of its residents and protect their health in this public health crisis. In the face of these challenges, Prince George’s County would benefit greatly from a federally coordinated and easily accessible site. 

Moreover, due to the unique, cross-jurisdictional nature of the National Capital Region (NCR), Prince George’s County is a nexus for federal employees. Many residents of the county work elsewhere in the NCR, whether it be in the District of Columbia or nearby counties in Virginia and Maryland. In fact, more than 17% of the regional federal workforce lives in Prince George’s, many of whom must commute to work outside of the county.   Living and working across borders in the NCR has added yet another layer of confusion. The cross-jurisdictional nature of the DMV region and the high number of federal employees in Prince George’s County call for coordinated, federal support and a central, federally run site in the county. Previous mass testing sites in Prince George’s County, including at FedEx Field and Six Flags America theme park, demonstrate that the county is a regionally ideal location for a vaccination site. It is imperative the federal government support its federal workforce in its vaccination campaign. 

For all of the above reasons, it is imperative that a mass, FEMA-run vaccination site be located in Prince George’s County. We cannot return to normal life until widespread immunity is achieved. This is an enormous undertaking and it cannot be accomplished without facilitation spearheaded by the federal government. 

Sincerely, 

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