WASHINGTON — After numerous technical difficulties plagued the rollout of D.C.'s vaccine eligibility expansion, DC Health and Mayor Muriel Bowser's office announced they will unveil a new pre-registration system.
The new process will allow D.C. residents to pre-register online or by calling the District's call center and providing basic health information. Then, when appointments become available for their eligibility group, they will be alerted through email, phone call, and/or text message that they can now be an appointment. Under the new system, DC Health will continue to set aside appointments for residents living in priority zip codes.
The new system is expected to launch March 11, while the current vaccine portal will still be used for this week's appointments.
On Thursday, March 4 at 9 a.m., 5,750 appointments will open to the following DC residents:
- DC residents who live in priority zip codes and are 65 and older
- DC residents who live in priority zip codes and are 18-64 with a qualifying medical condition
- Priority zip codes include 20422, 20011, 20017, 20018, 20002, 20001, 20019, 20020, 20032, 20593.
On Friday, March 5 at 9 a.m., 5,750 additional appointments will open to the same group of D.C. residents living in any zip code.
DC Health acknowledged the glitches that negatively affected the registration process for many last week, and said it had been working with Microsoft to ensure a better user experience.
"I got all the way through the appointment section and it froze up on me and then it kicked me all the way back to the beginning," Ward 4 resident David Small said. "I could never get back in because the system seemed so overloaded."
The improvements include:
- Increased server availability for the portal
- Addition of a 'waiting room' allowing 3,000 users to access the appointment questionnaire at a time
- Removal of the CAPTCHA from the questionnaire altogether
Who is currently eligible for a vaccine in DC?
- DC residents who are 65 years old and older
- DC residents 16-64 years old with qualifying medical conditions (see chart below)
- Individuals who work in health care settings
- Members of DC Fire & EMS; MPD officers
- Department of Corrections employees and residents
- Continuity of District Government personnel
- Residents of long-term and intermediate care facilities and residents of community residential facilities/group homes
- Individuals experiencing homelessness
- Teachers and staff who are, or will be, working in person at a traditional or public charter school
- Child care workers and teachers and staff at independent schools in DC;
- Individuals who work in a grocery store setting
- Outreach workers in health, human, and social services
- Individuals who work in manufacturing or food packaging
Vaccinations booked through DC Health are currently only available to those 18 and older, but Children's National Hospital is currently allowing 16 and 17-year-olds with qualifying conditions to be put on a waiting list for a Pfizer vaccine.
Bowser's office also said that several new mass vaccination sites will open in D.C. to administer the Johnson & Johnson one-dose shots. The press release did not specify how many sites will open or where they will be located.
"While users will be able to see when choosing a vaccination site which vaccine will be administered there, DC Health is emphasizing that all available vaccines have been proven effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19," DC Health said in a press release. "Residents are highly encouraged to take the first vaccine available to them."