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DC neighbors report more vaccine appointment problems; city plans move to new preregistration system

Mayor Muriel Bowser is slated to give new details about the new vaccine pre-registration system on Monday.

WASHINGTON — D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser recently said that changes are coming to make signing up to get the vaccine easier. 

This week, the city is launching a preregistration system using Microsoft, like Virginia and parts of Maryland have, where people can input their information online or through a call center. Then, D.C. Health will contact them to make an appointment instead of select groups having to sign up at a specific release date/time every week.

Councilmember Elissa Silverman said she still has questions heading into the week the site is supposed to be launched.

“This system will put the control in the government's hands in terms of we will use the tier system, and then it's a little unclear right now to me how the prioritization will work," Councilmember Silverman said. "I mean, there will be an algorithm that runs that says, if you're, you know, a 48-year-old woman who lives in northeastern Capitol Hill with no medical conditions, you know, how will that rank me in the in the database?”

The councilmember is also looking for more information on how long people will have to claim their appointment once they receive an email from D.C. Health.

"We need to have, you know, proper oversight of this preregistration system, we need to have user testing in that," Councilmember Silverman said. "And we've emphasized that to DC health in our Chief Technology Officer, you know, everyone needs to be able to use it who's eligible.

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In what's slated to be the last time using the current vaccine appointment system, some D.C. neighbors still encountered problems.

It was the first time Zelda Wait tried to sign up for an appointment — finally qualifying based on a medical condition.

D.C.'s vaccination portal opened up 5,750 appointments at 9 a.m. Friday to D.C. residents aged 65 and older and those 18-64 with a qualifying medical condition.

“I didn’t get notified until 12 minutes before the actual vaccine schedules were released," Wait said.

She rushed to sign on the website after seeing the email and ended up on a screen that said the portal only allows 3,000 people at a time — and put her in a queue to try to sign up for a spot. She said she didn't end up getting one.

“Why should we have to basically go through the hunger games to get this lifesaving vaccine?" Wait said. "It doesn’t make any sense.”

Mayor Bowser's team said she will address prioritization and the appointment sign-up process on Monday.

“I know a lot of people are frustrated by the system, and it is frustrating because we have a scarcity of vaccines," the councilmember said. 

Wait said she thinks the preregistration system will work better than what she — and others — have called the appointment "hunger games."

“The people of dc definitely want to get back to some sort of normalcy, and the only way we’re going to do that is getting the vaccine rolled out as efficiently as possible," she said.

D.C. officials said they will continue to set aside doses for people living in priority ZIP codes.

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