Vaccine Eligibility Expands, But Distribution Is Slow


Vaccination of D.C. residents continues to go slowly, lagging well behind other states’ rates, even as the District Department of Health has decided to expand the priority categories of vaccine recipients.

“D.C. will open up vaccine access on March 1 to residents ages 16 to 64 who self-attest that they have some 20 qualifying medical conditions,” DC Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt said during a Feb. 18 press conference. The new eligibility for 16-to-64-year-olds applies to those with cancer, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, an immunocompromised state, obesity (BMI over 30), liver disease, sickle cell disease and intellectual and developmental disabilities. Residents won’t need to show documentation from a health care provider to register.  

Still, the actual distribution continues to be slow and frustrating, with limited availability of appointments. As of Feb. 20, only 3.1 percent of residents — that is, 22,073 — had been fully vaccinated, according to the D.C. government tracker.  

But 24,838 non-D.C. residents also had been vaccinated in the District. That’s because, “like every other state, D.C. started vaccinating its health care workforce first,” said officials. “But perhaps unlike most other states, 75 percent of D.C.’s health care workers do not live in D.C.” Maryland and Virginia state health officials gave D.C. an initial amount of vaccine to help, but are no longer doing so, according to press reports. 

Meanwhile appointments for vaccinations for the second priority group — D.C. residents 65 years old and older — continue to be difficult to obtain. And many zip codes in the Georgetown area have been left off distribution priority lists altogether. Patients of MedStar Georgetown and Sibley Memorial hospitals are urged to check their “MyChart” accounts, but the message seems to be pretty much “don’t call us, we’ll call you.”  

A message at Sibley reads: “Johns Hopkins Medicine — as well as health systems and health agencies everywhere — is faced with a significant and unpredictable vaccine supply that is limiting our ability to offer as many vaccination appointments as we are eager to provide, even as eligibility expands. As long as we have supply, we will continue to vaccinate as many eligible patients and community members as we are authorized to do so. However, we encourage individuals to take advantage of all vaccine options available in their state and local areas.” 

More and more Georgetowners are getting vaccinated at venues outside the neighborhood. Howard University Hospital opened up numerous appointments last week on its website.The process, as experienced by this reporter, was very smooth, efficient, professional and friendly. Everyone who got the first shot was given an appointment three weeks later for the second one. 

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