Frank Augstein/AP Photo
D.C. has released a breakdown of how it will distribute the more than 14,000 vaccine doses it will receive next week.
Frank Augstein/AP Photo
D.C. officials have released a breakdown of next week's COVID-19 vaccine distribution, but are asking for patience from residents as demand continues to outpace supply.
Regular vaccine appointments for D.C. residents aged 65 and older and health care workers will continue to come online each week.
On Thursdays at 9 a.m., the city's online portal will be open for sign-ups from eligible residents in prioritized wards. (Those are wards 1, 4, 5, 7, and 8.) The city has done this to address the significant gap that has emerged in sign-ups across the city, where residents from more affluent wards have received a disproportionate number of vaccine doses even though they face some of the lowest rates of infection.
On Fridays, appointments will be open for sign-ups from eligible residents across the city.
Appointments so far have been running out fast. This week, all 2,235 of the Thursday appointments for eligible residents in prioritized wards got booked within 15 minutes. An additional 740 appointments will open up on Friday.
Next week, the city is scheduled to receive 14,375 vaccine doses. Those that aren't made available on the portal for eligible residents will be distributed to other prioritized and vulnerable groups through partnerships that health officials have with hospitals, clinics and other facilities. The doses will go to residents of intermediate care facilities, residents of group homes, people experiencing homelessness, staff of D.C. Public Schools and charter schools, police officers, and seniors who live in the city's public housing.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Thursday that the delays in vaccine rollout come down to an issue of supply — not to the city's ability to distribute the doses.
"We know that demand in D.C. is very high," she said. "We know, too, from our sister cities around the country that they too are experiencing high demand for the vaccine and scarcity of vaccine. So we will continue to advocate for more doses so that we can protect more people in Washington more quickly."
Bowser added that the city would be "working with the Biden administration to figure out how we can get doses." Nationwide, localities have been struggling to come up with effective vaccine distribution plans because they say vaccine shipments from the federal government have been unpredictable and fluctuate from week to week.
Bowser said that as of Jan. 16 the city had received 62,200 doses. So far, 41,053 of those doses have been administered. D.C. Health director LaQuandra Nesbitt said the gap between doses received and doses distributed was not a sign that doses were being wasted.
"It has nothing to do with the doses not actually being administered," said Nesbitt. "It has more to do with scheduling and a data reporting lag."
Nesbitt said providers are averaging about a 72-hour lag time between administering a dose and reporting the data to D.C. Health. She was unable to provide data on vaccine wastage, but said that officials were working to get the data and make it publicly available.
The Washington Post also reported Thursday that as soon as February D.C. could open up vaccine access to a much broader swath of the population with chronic conditions, including people who have a body mass index over 25. This means that more than half of adults in the District would be eligible for the vaccine.
Some say that this could boost access to the vaccine in the D.C.'s poorest wards because obesity is more prevalent in those communities, but others worry that so many residents would be eligible that the rollout could exacerbate the inequities that have surfaced so far in the city's sign-up process.
This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.