DC Addresses Apparent Disparity in Vaccine Availability

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Some D.C. residents are frustrated with the city’s vaccine portal, saying it’s been tough to make appointments, while leaders say they are trying to make sure residents of all wards have an equal chance at getting the shot.

On Saturday, Miguel Ramos tried to make an appointment for his wife’s uncle, a senior citizen in Shepherd Park. Ramos said he logged in right at 9 a.m., when appointments were supposed to come online, but there was nothing.

“Kept trying and trying and trying,” he said. “There were a few people on Twitter saying they were having problems, too. It wasn’t just me."

Ramos says eventually he was able to make the appointment.

 D.C. Council member Elissa Silverman (I-At large) said last week the city only received enough doses to vaccinate one in 10 senior citizens.

“The problem is that vaccine demand far outpaces supply," she said.

Coronavirus Cases in DC, Maryland and Virginia

COVID-19 cases by population in D.C. and by county in Maryland and Virginia

Source: DC, MD and VA Health Departments
Credit: Anisa Holmes / NBC Washington

According to the DC Health Department, of those who got vaccines, many live in areas that are higher income with fewer COVID-19 deaths.

"I don’t think there’s any reasonable person who would look at the way that the vaccinations were rolled out and say that there was equity there," said Council member Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5).

Over the weekend, D.C. opened more vaccine slots for residents from areas with fewer vaccinated people.

Julius Peterson said he made an appointment with no issues.

“I hope everyone can get the vaccine in a timely fashion so we can cut this pandemic down," he said.

As the city works to prioritize residents from underserved areas, one vaccination site says some are hesitant to get the shot.

"There are a number of people who have told us that they’re still thinking it through," Bread for the City CEO George Jones said.

He said his nonprofit is reaching out to senior citizens they normally serve, letting them know the vaccine is there if they want it, as D.C. works to ensure everyone has an equal chance.

The DC Health Department says Monday morning, all 1,400 vaccine appointments were claimed in less than half an hour.

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