A D.C. resident receives COVID-19 vaccine. Credit: Darrow Montgomery

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All D.C. residents 16 and older will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine starting Monday, April 12, a spokesperson for Mayor Muriel Bowser confirms. The Bowser administration moved up eligibility for the second time. The original date was May 1. The Biden administration also recently moved up eligibility for all adults to mid-April.

DC Health will start sending vaccine notifications to D.C. residents and workers that are older than 16 and pre-register on vaccinate.dc.gov next week too. D.C. residents and workers are being encouraged to pre-register and spread the word.

Some D.C. residents who are not yet eligible received vaccine notifications Thursday morning from DC Health. Barred in DC blogger Raman Santra first tweeted that residents who say they do not have a qualifying medical condition or job received alerts to book an appointment. The mayor’s spokesperson later confirmed the news to City Paper. “I got mine this am and I’m not priority anything. Quite unexpected,” tweeted one person. “Can confirm 🙂 Unrelated – anyone know any good delt exercises for left arms?” tweeted another.

A DC Health spokesperson says the agency sent out vaccine notifications this morning to all D.C. residents who pre-registered and are considered eligible due to occupation. The agency determined that there were enough appointments for next week to start notifying D.C. residents 16 and older, regardless of eligibility.

“All DC residents who are seniors, essential workers or have qualifying medical conditions registered in the portal have been offered appointments [through] the portal so we are now able to move to Phase Two for the general population with appointments starting on April 12, which is earlier than planned,” says the DC Health spokesperson. (The mayor’s chief of staff, John Falcicchio, clarified that essential workers must say they are reporting in person while registering to have been prioritized.)

The Bowser administration is encouraging every D.C. resident and worker to pre-register on vaccinate.dc.gov or the call center at 1 (855) 363-0333. Since the existing lottery system replaced the Hunger Games-style portal on March 10, 66,349 people have pre-registered, received an invitation, and booked an appointment, according to the mayor’s office. As of Wednesday, 192,286 people pre-registered and were waiting for a notification. 

For those who pre-registered but got vaccinated elsewhere, officials are encouraging them to email vaccinatedc@dc.gov or phone the call center. This enables DC Health to take them off the wait list and offer the opportunity to someone else. People have 48 hours to book an appointment, but DC Health will offer them the opportunity to book up to three times.

DC Health sends notifications to people who pre-register multiple times a week: regularly on Thursdays and Sundays by 10:00 a.m, and on Tuesdays by 10:00 a.m. if not all the appointments have been filled.

This past Tuesday, DC Health sent more than 5,600 appointment emails, according to the Falcicchio. This suggested that demand among populations that DC Health deems eligible or prioritizes was dwindling.

There are plenty of D.C. residents who’ve been eligible for months but are not yet vaccinated. As of April 2, 67.7 percent of seniors are at least partially vaccinated.

DC Health says one of its operating principles for the pre-registration system is “an equitable distribution of the vaccine,” so the agency has been prioritizing people officials consider most at risk of serious illness from COVID-19. This past week, DC Health aspired to send 80 percent of vaccine notifications to residents older than 65 or who have a qualifying medical condition. Half of those residents had to live in ZIP codes that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and have lower rates of vaccination. 20 percent of notifications were sent to eligible workers.

The pre-registration system has not always been accessible, particularly for non-English speakers. When it first launched, the portal where people actually pre-register was only in English. Even though they encouraged every D.C. resident and worker to register starting on March 17, officials did not translate the portal using a Google Widget until March 19. The Google Widget was billed as a temporary solution. But officials’ plans to translate the portal into six commonly spoken languages have not yet materialized. They had initially planned to complete the translation project by the end of March.

D.C. residents and workers can also book appointments outside of vaccinate.dc.gov. DC Health is offering opportunities through CVS and the Department of Veterans Affairs. DC Health is not advertising opportunities to book appointments at other pharmacies, and is trying to have independent pharmacies use the portal instead of their own scheduling systems. UnitedHealthcare has launched a tool that helps people find appointments called Vaccine Finder. And Ryan Stahlin, the data scientist responsible for DCcovid.com, created a Twitter bot that notifies the public whenever CVS makes appointments available online called DC CVS Vaccine Bot.