WASHINGTON — After weeks of problems, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and city officials announced that its new pre-registration system for COVID-19 vaccine appointments will officially launch Wednesday.
During her weekly COVID news briefing Monday, Bowser said all District residents who are currently eligible for the vaccine should pre-register for an appointment either online or by phone. Once the portal launches, residents will need to answer questions regarding their occupation, medical history, COVID-19 history and contact information.
After completing their registration, officials emphasize that residents will need to wait to be contacted to make an appointment.
Bowser, along with D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, said the system will prioritize three groups for now -- with 40% of the doses going to D.C. residents aged 65 and up, 40% going to 18 to 64 year-olds with certain medical conditions, and the remaining 20% allocated to eligible workers.
Bowser said 50% of the doses allocated to each category will be reserved for priority zip codes. She said people will be selected randomly to receive a dose.
“The order in which you register does not affect the order in which you will be offered an invitation," Bowser said.
Bowser and Nesbitt caution residents that registering first thing will not get you to the front of the vaccine appointment line, so there is no rush to register for your vaccine.
After an invitation is sent, Bowser said residents will have a 48-hour window to book an appointment. If your window expires before making the appointment, residents will have to wait until they are selected again for the vaccine registration. If residents miss their window for a third time, they will have to re-register.
The mayor said even with this new system, it could take days, weeks or months to get a vaccine appointment.
“We do not have enough vaccine for everyone who wants it,” Bowser said during the Monday COVID briefing. "But everyone who registers will eventually get a vaccine."
According to city officials, the District is getting 24,760 doses delivered this week. More than 7,000 of those doses will go to hospitals for their patients, around 3,000 for special initiatives and around 15,000 will go toward appointments on D.C.'s vaccination website.
Bowser said the vaccine appointments will be allocated as such:
- 40% go to those 65 and older
- 40% go to D.C. residents 18-64 with medical conditions
- 20% go to eligible workers
Once the pre-registration system launches Wednesday, the first invitations should be out by Friday, with the first vaccine appointments taking place on Monday.
After this first week, Bowser said invitations will be sent out Thursday, Sunday, and Tuesday (if appointments need to be filled) by 10 a.m.
City officials are also reminding residents who pre-register to make sure to check their email spam folder for the invites, as each invitation can be used only once.
“We’re doing the best we can to make the technology match the very high demand,” Bowser said. “And what we’re also doing is hopefully ensuring that they won’t have to encounter frustration week after week.”
The mayor said the system is designed to focus on equity, but a lead organizer for Serve Your City/Ward 6 Mutual Aid, Maurice Cook, said D.C. still isn't reaching the people who need the vaccine most.
“We still are not, you know, confronting the fundamental issue, the structural issue with our lack of devices, or lack of internet access, and the skill set necessary to be able to access and navigate this online system," Cook said. "This zip code situation obviously didn't work. And that's why they're changing the way that they're doing this registration."
As of Saturday, nearly 13,000 white D.C. residents have been fully vaccinated, compared to 8,000 Black neighbors.
When asked what else D.C. has to do to ensure real equity in vaccine distribution, Cook said: “They need to make sure that our white counterparts are on the back of the bus for once.
"We have to do better," he said. "And we're not going to wait for the city to do better. So we're just going to do the best that we can here on the street, and taking care of our own people.”
Cook's group is planning to partner with a new vaccine equity hunters group with the goal of closing the vaccine gap. Mutual Aid is also setting up a hotline, so residents can get help with finding the vaccine.