Seniors in Montgomery County turned away from confirmed COVID-19 vaccine appointments

Senior citizens in Montgomery County are contacting FOX 5 after being turned away from getting the vaccine, which is leaving some of the most vulnerable in the community disappointed and upset.

For example: 70-year-old Jane Dobridge said she got an e-mail stating she was eligible to get vaccinated.

READ MORE: Race disparity in DC region’s early vaccine rollout data

She signed up for an appointment through the state’s website, but when she showed up for the shot at Richard Montgomery High School, Dobridge was told to leave.

"A police escorted me out because they said I did not qualify for the vaccination and I was not entitled to be in the building," said Dobridge.

Maryland has authorized people in Phase 1C – those who are 65 and older – to get the vaccine.

However, Montgomery County said due to limited supply of the vaccine, the county is still in Phase 1B where only people who are 75 and older can get the shot.

READ MORE: Hundreds of non-Prince George's residents cross county lines to get vaccinated

Due to that gray area, senior citizens like Bethesda resident 78-year-old Gary Marint said the registration process is misleading and a headache.

"We have been trying online for more than two weeks, the state site, the Montgomery county site, we fill out the forms multiple times then we find out at the end all that there’s no vaccine available. So we filled out forms, we fill out more forms," said Marint.

Marint and his 75-year-old wife, Mary Marint, were turned away at White Oak High School, but didn’t give up. Afterwards, the couple randomly showed up to Richard Montgomery High School, pulled some strings, and was able to register on-site.

"I have to admit, that we were privileged. We know people in the network so through back channels we were able to find out about this and I recognize some others aren’t as privileged so that’s another sad part of the system," said Marint.

READ MORE: Seeking the COVID-19 vaccine in the DC region? An appointment is required

FOX 5 asked Sean O’Donnell, public health emergency manager for Montgomery County Health and Human Services, how the county could let that slide when there are so many others in high risks groups who need the vaccine.

"That is disappointing to hear and we certainly will work hard to make sure that doesn’t happen. We know we have a limited amount of vaccine and we are committed to making sure they go to the priority groups that are listed and being equitable about how we do that," said O’Donnell.

He also wants to make it clear to residents that an e-mail from the state stating vaccine eligibility does not mean you can get the vaccine in Montgomery County at this time.

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"Unfortunately, we have a lot of people who are getting links to the state’s registration system and when they go to that site because it’s a statewide site, it doesn’t indicate what tier or what group each local jurisdiction is in and so they get a link, fill it out, and they’re able to make an appointment, but they’re just not in the group we’re currently vaccinating in Montgomery County," said O’Donnell.

He said a confirmation from this e-mail address – C19VACCINATION@MONTGOMERYCOUNTYMD.GOV – is an official authorized invitation to get vaccinated.

In order to get the shot in Montgomery County, a person must pre-register here:

Keep in mind, that is for getting vaccinated at county-run clinic. There are two locations at White Oak High School and Richard Montgomery High School; However, people who are 65 and over can get the shot at some pharmacies and hospitals.

"We’re trying to reduce the confusion with the population. And I understand with – right now, having other jurisdictions moving at slightly different paces, that does cause some confusion with the state sending messages that need to apply for everybody, but jurisdictions having different constraints due to the vaccine they have available," said O’Donnell.

The county is also asking people to not share appointment links because that is can cause problems.

As for Dobridge, she is still desperate and waiting to get vaccinated.

"I’d like for them to allow us to get the vaccine since we did have the appointment, but I just feel like we should be able to have access to the vaccine," said Dobridge.