A vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine
A vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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D.C. met the White House goal of having 70 percent of adults partially vaccinated 20 days ahead of schedule. That’s great news. The COVID-19 vaccine works, and data suggests even against the Delta variant, the most contagious one of all throughout the pandemic. 

In early May, the Biden administration announced a goal for 70 percent of the U.S. adult population to have at least one shot by July 4. Then in early June, Mayor Muriel Bowser joined dozens of mayors and pledged to partially vaccinate at least 70 percent of Washingtonians 18 years old or older by Independence Day. 

On Monday, June 14, the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention reported that 70 percent of the local population in D.C. over the age of 18 is at least partially vaccinated. This means D.C. is doing better than the national average of 64.5 percent. 

“Congratulations to New York State and Washington DC which just hit the milestone,” tweeted White House COVID-19 data director Cyrus Shahpar. D.C. not only joins New York but Washington state, New Hampshire, Maryland, California, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Maine, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Hawaii, and Vermont. Neighboring Virginia is nearing the benchmark, at 69.1 percent. 

DC Health’s data lags behind the CDC’s. DC Health updates its data weekly on Wednesdays. If readers visit coronavirus.dc.gov, they’ll see DC Health reporting 68.6 percent of residents 18 or older partially vaccinated, as of June 7. The percentage of adult residents fully vaccinated stands at 57.5 percent. 

In a conference call with the Council on Friday, Preetha Iyengar, the supervisory epidemiologist at DC Health, explained that the agency is ensuring that it is presenting “the most correct data.” “The out-of-state information—we were able to clean and review and make sure there wasn’t double reporting on that, and include that information,” Iyengar told lawmakers. “The data with the federal entities are still something that we are trying to sort through…we are actively working on that.” 

Ward 2 Councilmember Brooke Pinto raised concerns about the data lag, saying businesses and residents look at the data DC Health presents on its website to determine the state of the pandemic in the District. In response to these concerns, Iyengar asked the public not only to look at the percentage of vaccinations but also the coronavirus metrics DC Health reports near daily, including the daily case rate and hospitalizations. As of June 13, the daily case rate is 2.2 cases per 100,000 people—in the green or Phase 0/1 levels. The only metric in the red is the percentage of positive cases interviewed by contact tracers.  

As City Paper has previously reported, vaccination is uneven across the District. As a result, Black Washingtonians are getting sick and dying of COVID-19 at higher rates in recent weeks than their White counterparts. Black-majority wards that are historically underinvested in have lower coverage: Ward 8 has 28 percent of residents 18 or older vaccinated and Ward 7 has 33 percent. Meanwhile D.C.’s White-majority wards, which have a higher concentration of wealth, near or have a majority of people vaccinated: Ward 2 stands at 43 percent and Ward 3 at 52 percent. 

The racial disparity in vaccinations is most pronounced among younger residents, according to newly published DC Health data. While 30 percent of White residents between 18 and 24 are at least partially vaccinated, 14 percent of Black residents in that same age group are. And 34 percent of White residents between 25 and 29 are partially vaccinated, while 15 percent of Black residents in that age group are. The racial disparity narrows among older residents. Among 50 to 64 year olds, 42 percent of White residents are partially vaccinated. The same is true of Black residents. White and Black residents 85 and older also have comparable coverage.

—Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? agomez@washingtoncitypaper.com)

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