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D.C. releases early data on vaccine recipients amid push for equitable distribution

A dose of the Moderna vaccine in prepared in December.
A dose of the Moderna vaccine in prepared in December. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

The District released partial data Monday on the race and ethnicity of residents who have received coronavirus vaccination in the city, but cautioned against drawing conclusions based on the preliminary figures because they are incomplete.

The data showed more than 17,000 White residents and just under 10,000 Black residents have been vaccinated in a city where Black residents are a plurality. D.C. Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt noted the data’s limited usefulness, saying the race or ethnicity of nearly 35,000 people who received vaccines was not recorded.

She faulted health-care providers who are failing to collect or provide data on race and ethnicity, leaving gaps in the city’s immunization information system. Nesbitt said Monday her office is continuing to work with vaccine providers to make the information “more robust” and useful.

“What I will tell you is we are focused on Black and Brown communities because we know we need to focus on Black and Brown communities,” she said. “But I will make no inference from this data given the amount of data that’s missing.”

The city has altered its scheduling and distribution plans for vaccines in recent days while trying to distribute the doses equitably among residents. The changes have come as residents across the Washington region are competing for a limited supply of doses as eligibility continues to increase.

D.C. reports improvements in equitable access to coronavirus vaccine

The city sought to add transparency to who is receiving the vaccine by publishing the data Monday, including figures that show which wards are vaccinating the most seniors.

About 23 percent of city residents older than 65 have received the first dose of the vaccine, Nesbitt said, but vaccines are disproportionately given to residents in D.C.’s most affluent wards, with fewer doses administered in Wards 5, 7 and 8, which are poorer.

Nesbitt said the city will continue to focus on residents with Zip codes in less-affluent wards when releasing new appointments later this week, when the city expects to receive 10,975 more doses.

Meanwhile, D.C. Council members expressed vaccine distribution frustrations Monday to top city health officials, including deputy mayor for health and human services Wayne Turnage and deputy health director Patrick Ashley, who heads the department’s emergency response administration.

Council members proposed a variety of ideas, from establishing on-site vaccination clinics at apartment buildings where seniors live to delaying residents’ second doses so more people can get a first round. Other proposals included implementing a lottery rather than the first-come, first-served registration scramble for appointments.

Turnage, who objected to delaying second doses, focused his testimony on the city’s effort to address the gulf in vaccine appointments between the wealthiest and poorest wards.

But Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), who represents the ward receiving, by far, the most vaccines, said seniors in her ward — the city’s most affluent — say their access to the vaccines has been reduced by priority days for certain Zip codes. She asked whether some seniors — such as those older than 80 or with serious health problems — could get higher priority regardless of Zip code.

“How can that be factored in? Because that person [with cancer] is especially vulnerable, too, even if it’s a disfavored Zip code,” Cheh said.

Ashley pointed out that only 30 percent of the vaccine doses delivered to D.C. are made available as appointment slots on the city’s registration website. The rest go mainly to hospitals and health centers with their own processes for registering patients for appointments, as well as to vaccine drives such as clinics for teachers, police officers and residents of public housing.

D.C. reports improvements in equitable access to coronavirus vaccine

Maryland, D.C. and Virginia officials on Monday announced an agreement to vaccinate employees who work in their jurisdictions but live in another part of the region. Officials encouraged workers to contact their employer and the health department in the jurisdiction where they work for more information.

Virginia has administered 843,230 doses of the coronavirus vaccine as of Monday, averaging 33,675 doses a day. Nearly 125,000 people in the state are fully vaccinated. The District has administered 62,219 doses, or nearly 75 percent of the doses it has distributed. Maryland has administered 455,910 doses, and 88,459 people have been fully vaccinated.

Maryland moved into the next phase of vaccination Monday, expanding eligibility to include immunocompromised people such as those with cancer, sickle cell disease or diabetes.

The greater Washington region on Monday recorded 4,160 new coronavirus infections and 40 additional fatalities. Virginia added 2,861 cases and 10 deaths, Maryland added 1,163 cases and 27 deaths, and D.C. added 136 cases and three deaths.

The rolling seven-day average number of new infections in the region has continued to fall since peaking at 8,698 on Jan. 12. On Monday, that number stood at 6,146. The recent average number of daily deaths attributed to the virus has held steady in recent days, hovering near 100.

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Coronavirus news in D.C., Virginia and Maryland

The latest: More than two years into the pandemic, covid cases in the D.C. region are rising again, , while liberal Montgomery County asks who deserves credit for its robust covid response. Meanwhile, Black funeral directors still face a daunting amount of deaths from covid and the omicron wave has had an unequal toll in the DMV.

At-home tests: Here’s how to use at-home covid tests, where to find them and how they differ from PCR tests.

Mapping the spread: Tens of thousands have died in the local region and nationwide cases number in the hundreds of thousands.

Omicron: Remaining covid restrictions in the D.C.-area, plus a breakdown of variant symptoms and mask recommendations.

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