The number of hospitalizations attributed to COVID-19 in Maryland is below 500. That is according to the state health agency and Gov. Larry Hogan. The 490 hospitalizations are the lowest number attributed to the coronavirus since the end of last October. It is very good news.

The Maryland Department of Health also reports 67.6% of Marylanders have received at least one COVID vaccine shot. That is higher than the national average of 60.8%, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Still, mass vaccination efforts are challenged by slowing demand and some hesitancies.

Government and public health officials continue to look for ways to boost vaccination numbers.

The state of Maryland has launched a $2 million COVID vaccination lottery. The Maryland Lottery has combined forces with the state health department to assign numbers to eligible residents over 18 who have received vaccines for the daily sweepstakes which runs through July 4.

The federal government is also deploying Peace Corps volunteers domestically, including in Maryland, to help with vaccine efforts. Federal mobile vaccine clinics have also been deployed on the Eastern Shore aimed at reaching rural communities.

Like with other major issues such as gun violence and policing, there are long-term, historical and systematic issues at play with vaccine hesitancies.

There are pockets of historical and contemporary distrust of vaccines and government health efforts.

Some African American hesitancy, for example, stems from the legacies of the Tuskegee Experiment where the U.S. government allowed 128 Black men to die during a decades long syphilis study.

Immigrant communities might also be less keen to give information to government agencies or go to vaccine sites manned by National Guard troops in fatigues. Those concerns often date back to immigrants’ home countries.

We need to look back at the history of our institutions and systems — including health care and government public health policies. We need to acknowledge historical mistreatments and inequities — and learn from them.

A major component of future reforms and overcoming current challenges with vaccine demand is access to health care.

We have seen access to vaccines broadened and taken to rural communities here on the Shore via mobile clinics.

Those mobile clinics need to be used more in the future for community-based health care and to approve access to basic medical and dental care.

We would like to see similar mobile and community efforts related to mental health as well as children’s and prenatal care.

Some of that is going on now. We just need greater access to health care and more community-based efforts.

There are still plenty of our neighbors without medical insurance or access to proper basic care, including dental care.

There will be plenty of lessons to be learned from the pandemic.

We hope one of those is looking at creative and innovative ways to offer health care and bring services more directly to more of our neighbors.

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