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'Just thrilled' | DC's first high-capacity COVID-19 vaccine site opens at convention center

DC Health says 2,500 doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine will be distributed on the first day.

WASHINGTON — D.C.'s first high-capacity COVID-19 vaccination site has opened on Saturday. 

The site is located at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, where the D.C. Health Department says it will distribute 2,500 vaccines in its first day.

Those who were able to book an appointment to get the shot could breathe a sigh of relief after a long 12 months.

"I'm just thrilled, I mean it's been a really tough year," Michael Weinstein said before he entered the center to get his vaccine.

"It just means the start of kind of coming back to some kind of normalcy," Sarah Moody said as she waited to get her shot.

It's the city's first day using the convention center as a vaccine site. It's also the district's first chance to distribute the newest coronavirus vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

"Today will be the first time we're using the Johnson and Johnson vaccine since it was approved," D.C. Health Department Senior Deputy Director Patrick Ashley said Saturday. "We'll distribute 2,500 doses of Johnson and Johnson today."

Ashley notes that the convention center vaccination site won't be open every day. But he stresses it's not a one-off site either.

D.C. will use the center whenever citywide vaccine supply levels allow for it, he says.

"Each week we're getting upwards of 15,000 vaccines or more and so we're using all of those vaccines up," Ashley said.

Many smaller vaccination sites across the district will continue to operate on a normal schedule.

Credit: WUSA
A man checks in to a high-capacity coronavirus vaccination site Saturday in Washington, D.C.

Two more high-capacity vaccination sites are scheduled to open in the district next weekend, according to Ashley. One will be at the Entertainment and Sports Arena; the other will be at Providence Health System.

Ashley defines a "high-capacity" site as one that can give "more than 1,000" vaccine doses per day.

For Moody, the decision to get vaccinated was easy: she's seen the dangers of COVID-19 up close.

"I definitely had friends who are around my age, I'm in my early thirties, who were hospitalized for weeks even though they didn't have [underlying] conditions," Moody said.

Like her, Weinstein was at the appointment-only convention center Saturday morning to get his shot.

He’s optimistic many more will soon do the same.

"I hope everyone can get it... as soon as they can," he said.

Vaccine eligibility in D.C. is currently limited to certain groups including seniors, those with specific underlying medical conditions and people working designated frontline jobs. You can see the current eligibility list here.

All D.C. vaccination sites are appointment only. To register for an appointment, click here.

RELATED: How to make a COVID-19 vaccination appointment in DC, Maryland and Virginia

RELATED: Maryland opens new mass vaccination site registrations; governor calls it a 'light at the end of the tunnel'

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