Baltimore’s second mass vaccination site M&T Bank Stadium opens with 250 appointments

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Colin Campbell, The Baltimore Sun
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The state’s third mass COVID-19 vaccination site — the other two are at Six Flags America in Prince George’s County and at the downtown Baltimore Convention Center — was expected to offer 250 vaccine appointments in its first days before scaling up to thousands per day once more vaccines arrive.

Gov. Larry Hogan, who toured the site Thursday, said he hopes the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be approved Friday.

”We should start seeing those doses arrive in our state next week, which is tremendously exciting,” Hogan said. “It’s going to add to the arsenal to go after this virus. We are going to be figuring out exactly how many we are getting, and then determine with our team where those additional doses are going to go. But they’re going to go in somebody’s arm as fast as we can get them in there.”

The 55,000-square-foot mass vaccination center isn’t on the football field, but it will still bring people to an area of the stadium most don’t get to visit: the club level.

Mahua Deb said she was the first to get a vaccine at M&T Bank Stadium on the mass vaccination clinic’s first day in operation Thursday. It was her first visit to the Ravens stadium.

Deb, 43, a Food and Drug Administration consumer safety officer who lives in Ellicott City, moved from Michigan last year.

“The pandemic started so we didn’t get to explore Maryland that much,” she said.

She described an organized identification check, vaccination and post-shot observation process. She showed up early and was finished more than a half-hour before her appointment.

”Everything was very, very organized,” Deb said. “I would encourage people to come. ... There’s a lot of hard workers there.”

Hogan said the stadium, which is near a Light Rail stop, will improve access for people who don’t have a car — part of the state’s efforts to make the rollout more equitable amid a significant race disparity in the state’s initial vaccinations. White Marylanders are receiving four times as many vaccines as Blacks, according to the latest data released by the state.

But the Republican governor noted that it is the Maryland’s second mass vaccination site in the city.

”As of last week, Baltimore City had gotten far more than they were really entitled to,” Hogan said.

After parking in Lot C, people with appointments passed under the massive “VACCINATION SITE” banner at the RavensWalk and proceeded to the check-in tent just inside Gate A.

Don and Eileen Kunkoski, who live in Reisterstown, had been on four separate lists for other vaccination sites since mid-January without getting an appointment.

They managed to schedule appointments for Monday at the stadium after waiting two hours on the phone.

Don Kunkoski, 77, who is retired from the Environmental Protection Agency, came to check out the site’s accessibility in advance of the appointment for Eileen, 74, who he said doesn’t get around well.

He was impressed by the separate, accessible entrance and exit at the Northwest Suite Entrance. Others took the escalator and the steps, entering at Gate A and exiting at the Northeast Suite Entrance.

”They’re ready to go,” Kunkoski said. “It looks very well organized.”

Banners between the Johnny Unitas and Ray Lewis statues instructed people to notify staff of any symptoms in the past 48 hours, any exposure or concerns about exposure and any pending COVID-19 tests.

Carol and Rob Vatalaro, both 72, who live in Columbia, thought the process required more identification checks than necessary, given that they already had appointments.

”We had three check-ins,” Carol Vatalaro said. “Other than that, it was fine.”

The site will scale up to 500 doses this weekend and is aiming to schedule 2,000 appointments per day beginning next Thursday, saidCharles Wetzelberger, deputy site coordinator with the Air National Guard. Eventually, the plan is to vaccinate 10,000 a day.

You can’t see the field from most of the 74 vaccination stations, and the bar has vaccines and medical equipment instead of beer, but the mass clinic has a “cool vibe,” especially for people who haven’t been on the club level before, Wetzelberger said.

”It was a barren club section in a stadium that hasn’t been used in a year [except for] a smattering of fans,” Wetzelberger said. “We were able to transform this into a mass vax site.”

Hogan said he thought the club-level clinic looked “beautiful” when he toured it.

”It looks like you’re there to watch a Ravens game,” Hogan said. “I said I was a little disappointed you couldn’t get a hot dog and a beer, but they’re doing a great job of getting vaccines done.”

This story will be updated.

Baltimore Sun reporter Hallie Miller contributed to this article.