Vaccine priorities: How DC, Md., Va. will handle distribution

The deadline for U.S. states to draft plans for who will get the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine once it becomes available is Friday, and with coronavirus cases surging, officials around the region have revealed their plans.

D.C., Maryland and Virginia will receive shipments of their first doses of the Pfizer vaccine by mid-December, and they have plans for who gets the vaccine when it arrives.

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Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.


D.C. recently rolled out its vaccine plan.

For the initial wave of vaccines, D.C. will receive 6,825 doses, according to D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt.

The shipments — seven boxes that carry 975 shots each — will be sent to six sites “that have the necessary equipment to store the Pfizer vaccine,” most located in Northwest D.C.:

  • MedStar Washington Hospital Center
  • Howard University Hospital
  • The George Washington University Hospital
  • Children’s National Hospital
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • MedStar Georgetown University Hospital

Those 6,825 doses cover less than 10% of D.C.’s front-line health care workers, who number around 85,000.

Nesbitt outlined the priority groups, which include health care workers, first responders, essential workers and at-risk D.C. residents, as well as the rollout plan.

“The District of Columbia will implement a phased approach to vaccination,” Nesbitt said, noting that “each phase does not have to be fully vaccinated before we move on to the next phase.”

“Within each one of these phases, Phase 1A primarily being health care workers and first responders; Phase 1B being essential workers and at-risk residents; Phase 2, the rest of the Phase 1 populations and the general public; and then Phase 3,” which is the general public.

More shipments of the vaccine are expected weekly, or every other week.


Maryland will receive 150,000 doses in its first distribution of the Pfizer vaccine.

The plan, released by Gov. Larry Hogan, says that those doses will go to health care workers and employees at nursing homes.

Those 150,000 doses that they receive in mid-December will only cover half of the state’s health care workers, according to Hogan.

Phase One of the vaccination distribution will cover front-line responders and health care workers caring for COVID-19 patients. Staff and residents of nursing homes and essential workers, such as those in public safety and education, fall into the Phase One plan as well.

Phase Two of vaccine distribution will go to the general public. Health officials said that the state will likely begin vaccinating the general public this spring.


In an update, Virginia said it was getting ready to receive an estimated total of 480,000 doses of vaccine from both Pfizer and Moderna by the end of the month.

This estimate is based on new information from Operation Warp Speed on Thursday, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Priority will be given to essential workers and those with health conditions that would put them at greater risk. Health care workers and residents of long-term care homes will be vaccinated first.

State epidemiologist Dr. Lilian Peake said that there are about 500,000 people who fit the description for the first phase.

The 480,000 doses is estimated for the month of December. “Subsequent weekly shipments are expected to begin after the initial shipment” and will continue to be for health care workers and long-term care facility residents, the health department said.

CVS and Walgreens teams will help with the vaccinations of long-term care residents.

The first shipment of Pfizer vaccines is expected for mid-December; more than 70,000 initial doses will be distributed to health care workers, with those caring for COVID-19 patients receiving top priority.

“The actual amount of vaccine received in Virginia is a moving target and dependent on when and how quickly vaccination doses are manufactured,” the health department said.

“We fully expect to have enough vaccine for everybody,” Gov. Ralph Northam said during a news conference earlier this week, “but it will take time.”

Northam predicted that all Virginians would be able to get the vaccine around late spring or early summer.

WTOP’s Will Vitka, Teta Alim and Kristi King contributed to this report.

Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

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