D.C. now uses a preregistration system for getting in line for a COVID-19 vaccine. The portal launched in mid-March replaced a system that crashed as thousands of people tried to book appointments.
The new system allows you to submit information, then you will receive a text, call or email when it’s time to book your appointment.
Here are answers to frequently asked questions about the new system:
What's a preregistration?
When you preregister, you're telling DC Health that you're interested in getting a vaccine. When it's your turn, you'll get contacted to book an appointment.
How can I preregister?
You can visit vaccinate.dc.gov or call 1-855-363-0333 (8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday or 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday).
If you’re using the website, you may be routed to a virtual “waiting room” for a brief time. There's no need to refresh the page — just wait for your turn.
Who can preregister now?
All D.C. residents and essential workers can now use the preregistration portal, Mayor Muriel Bowser told News4 in an update Wednesday, March 17. Previously, the District asked that only people currently eligible for the shots use the system, so as to avoid overloading the system.
Bowser told News4 that the system now can handle all the web traffic, and everyone should preregister.
If you are an essential worker in D.C. but live elsewhere, you can preregister.
You can submit your information to DC Health at any time, officials say. The order in which people register does not affect when they are selected; it will be based on their qualifying factors and where they live.
Once you preregister, be patient, the mayor has said. It could be days, weeks or months before residents get their chance to book an appointment.
“We do not have enough vaccines for everyone who wants it. It will remain this way for months,” Bowser said.
What information do I need to preregister?
The preregistration questionnaire asks you about basic personal information and eligibility. Be prepared to select whether or not you have a qualifying chronic medical condition.
The form also asks essential workers to list their workplace's address and sector.
You'll also be asked to input your own address and contact information and demographic data.
You don't need to upload any documents, but the website tells essential workers to bring proof of employment such as a paystub or work ID to the vaccination appointment.
How long does it take?
Preregistering takes about five minutes. The questionnaire only asks for information that you would most likely know, such as your job, diagnosed medical conditions and personal information.
Will preregistering early get me a vaccine sooner?
D.C. says no. Vaccine appointments will be offered based on individuals' eligibility, not when they preregister.
Must I preregister for a vaccine?
If you want a vaccine and live or work an essential job in D.C., you should preregister to get a shot from the city.
The preregistration system is how D.C. currently plans to reach most people, although other programs exist like direct outreach to educators and vaccine clinics at residential facilities.
Once preregistered, how do I book an appointment?
Keep an eye on your phone and email.
Once you’re chosen, you’ll be sent a link to get your appointment. Then, you’ll have 48 hours to sign up before the link expires.
After that, look out for them on Thursday and Sunday mornings at 10 a.m. If there are extra appointments, they’ll go out Tuesdays at 10 a.m.
What if I miss the booking window?
If you don't respond to a vaccination appointment invitation within 48 hours, then you’re back in the preregistration line. You’ll get another chance to book.
But if you’re sent a link three times and you don’t book an appointment, you will be deleted from the preregistration system. That means you would need to preregister again and start the process from scratch.
How will the vaccines be allotted across different groups?
Here’s what D.C. says about the process for selecting how can book a vaccine appointment:
“Eligible individuals will be selected through a process that randomizes those who have registered, according to the following breakdown:
- 20% go to DC residents in priority zip codes who are 65 and older
- 20% go to DC residents in any zip code who are 65 and older
- 20% go to DC residents in priority zip codes who are 18-64 with a qualifying medical condition
- 20% go to DC residents in any zip code who 18-64 with a qualifying medical condition
- 10% go to DC residents in priority zip codes who are members of an eligible workforce who are 18 and older
- 10% go to members of an eligible workforce who are 18 and older, regardless of home address"
When Could I Get the Vaccine?
Answer the questions to calculate your risk profile and see where you fall in your county's and state's vaccine lineup. This estimate is based on a combination of vaccine rollout recommendations from the CDC and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
For a more detailed breakdown of who is included in each priority group, see this methodology.
Source: the Vaccine Allocation Planner for COVID-19 by Ariadne Labs and the Surgo Foundation
Interactive by Amy O’Kruk/NBC