ANNAPOLIS – More than 15,000 people have applied for a shot at getting one of Montgomery County’s 800 doses of flu vaccine – and that number could rise as the government continues taking lottery applicants through Monday.
The county will hold a random drawing Wednesday to dispense its flu vaccines to high-risk individuals who sign up by phone or online.
Montgomery County received 6,142 phone requests and 7,000 online applications Thursday, the first day county residents could sign up for the lottery, said Ulder Tillman, Montgomery County public health officer. Another 2,850 requests were phoned in as of 2:30 p.m. Friday.
“There was no way of predicting (the number),” Tillman said. “We expected it to be in the thousands . . . This is a little high, but it already appears to be tapering off.”
The lottery is open to Montgomery County residents who fall within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended priority group: children between the ages of 6 and 23 months, adults over 65, pregnant women and children with chronic medical conditions.
Telephone applications are closed over the weekend, but the online site will remain open. Registration ends Monday. Winners will be notified by Nov. 1.
The overwhelming response to the county’s flu shot lottery has other Maryland jurisdictions considering different options.
Wicomico County health officials said their 630 doses aren’t enough to hold a lottery.
“At this point our supply that we’re attempting to bring together . . . we will only have enough vaccines for residents in nursing homes,” said Danny Drew of the Wicomico County Health Department.
Howard County is dispensing its 3,000 doses on a first-come, first-served basis, said Penny Borenstein, county health officer. Patients will receive appointments to prevent lines and crowds, she said.
Recipients in Wicomico and Howard counties must meet the CDC’s qualifications.
However, the Baltimore Health Department narrowed its requirements.
The city will distribute its 1,000 doses to the “elderly or otherwise who have serious underlying conditions,” rather than everyone meeting CDC recommendations, said Baltimore Health Commissioner Peter Beilenson.
Baltimore health officials will call physicians to find out how many of their patients meet the criteria and then distribute the vaccines to them accordingly.
“We think, at least for Baltimore, this is the best way to do it,” Beilenson said.
The Baltimore Health Department has not donated or received vaccines from other counties, Beilenson said, but some Maryland county health departments are sharing their scarce supply to get the shots to where they’re needed most.
Calvert County donated about 600 doses to Montgomery County, Tillman said.
Wicomico County and Howard County officials said they received vaccines from other Maryland areas, but would not cite the sources of the donations.