FAQ: What to Know About COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution in the DC Area

Here’s info on when you could get the vaccine and how many people in D.C., Maryland and Virginia have been vaccinated so far 

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Vaccine What to Know

  • Across the region, health care workers have been designated as the top priority for vaccine distribution.
  • First responders, nursing home residents and staff, essential workers and high-risk adults also are among those first in line to receive the vaccine.
  • Vaccines are unlikely to be available to the general public until well into 2021.

Two COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have received emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, allowing front-line health care workers to be inoculated against the virus.

As of Monday, more than 18 million vaccine doses have been administered across the U.S. In our region, more than 882,000 people have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Here's what will happen next in the D.C. area as vaccine distribution continues.

Who will get the vaccine first?

According to vaccine distribution proposals issued by D.C., Maryland and Virginia, vaccine distribution will be rolled out in a series of phases.

D.C. and Maryland each have at least four phases (1A, 1B, 2, and 3) with various groups of recipients included in each phase. Virginia has five phases: 1A, 1B, 1C, 2, and 3.

Washington, D.C. - Phase 1B

The District is currently in Phase 1B – Tier 2, which includes teachers, essential government workers, and other essential workers.

Public school teachers in D.C. can begin receiving COVID-19 vaccinations starting this week, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced at a press conference Monday.

A total of 3,900 appointments have been made available for DCPS teachers. Already, 70% of those appointments have been filled, Bowser said.

In D.C., phase 1B includes an estimated 310,000 residents comprising high-risk adults, seniors age 65 and older, teachers, law enforcement, essential workers, grocery store workers, child care workers, people experiencing homelessness, nursing home residents and correctional facility residents and staff, according to the District's official proposal.

Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt explained that the tiered rollout of vaccinations within larger phases was implemented in order to adjust to the low quantity of vaccine doses available from the federal government. 

But even with this adjustment, the District is unable to fully vaccinate a tier due to the “dismal amount of vaccines we are receiving,” Nesbitt said. “We simply do not have enough vaccine.” 

Virginia - Phase 1B

Virginia is currently giving vaccines to people in Phase 1a and Phase 1b. 

Several Virginia health districts moved into Phase 1B as of Monday, officials say. Those in Group 1B, which includes people over the age of 65, teachers, police and firefighters as well as postal, transit and grocery workers, may begin getting vaccinated for COVID-19 now.

Anyone who has a chronic health condition is also eligible. 

Maryland - Phase 1C

Maryland moved into Phase 1C of vaccinations Monday, Jan. 25.

Maryland has expanded its vaccine rollout to Phase 1C Monday.

Phase 1C includes adults aged 65 to 74, essential workers including postal workers, grocery store workers and other workers in the food industry.

Phase 1B included Marylanders age 75 and older, all residents at long-term care facilities, and teachers and education staff will be eligible. All those eligible in Phase 1B can continue to book vaccination appointments.

Phase 1B also includes all K-12 teachers, education staff and childcare providers, and anyone of any age living in assisted-living or independent-living facilities, behavioral health group homes, or homes centered on developmental disabilities.

What About the Other Phases?

Phase 1A included an estimated 85,100 individuals in D.C., 465,580 in Maryland and 440,500 in Virginia – mostly first responders, health care workers and nursing home staff and residents.

See the graphic below for a more detailed breakdown of who was included in phase 1A in our region.

Even though our region is moving into Phase 1B, people who fall into the Phase 1A category can continue to schedule vaccination appointments.

Phase 2 will include other groups, such as adults with moderate risk, other workers in critical industries, young adults and children. Phase 3 is likely to include the general public, such as adults with little to no extra health risk who do not work in critical industries.

How long will it take for everyone to get vaccinated?

As of Monday, more than 18 million vaccine doses have been administered across the U.S., out of a total 41 million doses distributed.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Jan. 21 that 70 – 80% of Americans could be vaccinated by the end of summer, which would allow the U.S. to return to a degree of normalcy by fall.

Gov. Ralph Northam also said that Virginia is aiming for every Virginian who wants the vaccine to receive their doses by “early to mid-summer.” 

As of Monday, 355,461 people in our region have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. More than 24,000 people in the D.C. area have been fully vaccinated.

Demographic data shows that among early vaccine recipients in Maryland and Virginia, the largest number of recipients are in their 30s.

How do I schedule a vaccination?

D.C. has opened a web portal that will allow eligible recipients to schedule a vaccination against COVID-19.

Currently eligible to schedule vaccine appointments are those in groups 1A and 1B. (See above for the full breakdown of recipients by phase). Those individuals can register for a vaccine using the portal at

Guidance for Virginia health workers seeking to receive a COVID-19 vaccine has been issued by the Virginia Disaster Medical Advisory Committee. Health care facilities in the state are working to vaccinate their workers with the initial batches of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. 

Phase 1A health care workers who do not have access to the vaccine through their workplace should contact their local health department, Virginia officials say.

Nursing home residents will be given vaccines onsite at their facilities by CVS and Walgreens teams, who have partnered with the CDC.

Others can sign up using the portal here:

Currently, vaccines are being distributed to health care workers in Maryland through various medical centers.

Nursing home residents in Maryland will also be given vaccines onsite at their facilities through a CVS and Walgreens partnership with the CDC.

Other eligible Marylanders can sign up for an appointment here: and

Vaccination Portals by County

As vaccinations in our region ramp up, here's a look at local portals residents can use to sign up for vaccination appointments or sign up to receive alerts.

How do the vaccines work?

All but one vaccine under development will require two shots to achieve effectiveness. Pfizer’s second shot is three weeks later, and Moderna’s is four weeks.

"Vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed," according to Maryland's official coronavirus vaccine guidelines.

It usually takes a few weeks after the second dose for a vaccine to provide full protection.

Other steps, like wearing a mask and staying at least 6 feet away from others will continue to be necessary even after vaccination to help protect others and yourself, Maryland officials say.

Are the vaccines safe?

After receiving the COVID-19 vaccination, some side effects may occur; doctors say this is a normal indication of your body's immune response.

The side effects may "feel like flu and might even affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days," Maryland officials say.

The CDC says that people who have experienced severe adverse reactions to prior vaccines can still get the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, but should discuss the risks with their doctors beforehand.

British officials are investigating reports that two people who received the Pfizer vaccine had allergic reactions. Medical experts say that while reactions are rare, they aren’t unheard of for vaccines of any kind and are usually short-lived.

Extreme side effects are rare but not unheard of. For example, a Boston doctor who used an EpiPen on himself after having the first known allergic reaction to Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine spoke about his experience.

The doctor, who has a severe shellfish allergy, was taken to the emergency department after receiving his shot and reported feeling normal again a few days later.

Will the vaccine be effective against variant strains of the coronavirus?

Experts says that vaccine efficacy on newer coronavirus strains depends on exactly what the mutation looks like under a microscope.

Scientists say the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes COVID-19 mutates more slowly than the flu, which is good news for vaccine development.

Here's how scientists monitor those changes and how it will affect vaccine development.

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