DC health director: We’re focused on equity in COVID-19 vaccine distribution

FILE — Kaiser Permanente registered nurse Corie Robinson administers the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19 to D.C. Health Officer Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt during a vaccine event at Kaiser Permanente Capitol Hill Medical Center in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. (Shawn Thew/Pool via AP)

Amid concerns over COVID-19 vaccination equity in Virginia and Maryland, D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt said Thursday that District officials are “absolutely focused” on equity.

Nesbitt said the District has an approach in place “to ensure that residents who have had a disproportionate burden of disease in Wards 1, 4, 5, 7 and 8 have an advantage in terms of accessing appointments.”

“Their appointments are released a day before the appointments that are released citywide,” Nesbitt said, adding that appointments can be made online or through the District’s Coronavirus Call Center (1-855-363-0333).

“So we are absolutely focused on equity, equity and accessing the vaccine, not only through the appointment process, but in terms of how we distribute vaccine to our providers,” she said.

Nesbitt said it was “critically important” that states publish their data on race and ethnicity when it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations.

“The challenge that we’ve had is ensuring that vaccine providers give us the data that they collected at the time of dose administration; we’ve had a tremendously challenging time having vaccine providers actually collect race and ethnicity data,” Nesbitt said.

She said she knows about 28% of D.C.’s vaccine doses have gone to individuals who are white, non-Hispanic, 15% have gone to individuals who are Black, and the rest of the data has been entered as “unknown” or “other.”

“If I release that data, and it’s used to compare us to other jurisdictions, it must come with a number of caveats,” Nesbitt said. “And that’s not the data quality that we want to have our reputation for here in the District of Columbia. So we’ll release it beginning next week with a bunch of caveats and a commitment to continue to improve the quality of that data.”

According to Virginia Department of Health data Thursday, the overwhelming majority of those who’ve received vaccinations are white (228,331), while 32,724 Black residents have gotten a dose, and 20,656 recipients are listed as Latino and 14,038 are listed as Asian or Pacific Islander. Listed as not reported: 324,762.

Maryland Department of Health data Thursday shows a similar trend, with the overwhelming majority of vaccine recipients being white (241,989), while 56,135 Black residents have gotten a dose, 25,041 recipients are listed as Asian and 24,121 are listed as unknown. A separate data field shows that of recipients, 321,643 are “Not Hispanic or Latino” with 14,632 listed as “Hispanic or Latino.”

The most recipients in both states are female.

Nesbitt also broke down by race those who said they would be willing to get vaccinated.

“When we polled in the District of Columbia, 96% of white, non-Hispanic D.C. residents were willing to accept the vaccine,” Nesbitt said. “Around 93% of D.C. residents who identified as Asian were willing to accept the vaccine, 86% of those who identified as Hispanic or Latinx were willing to accept the vaccine, compared to 61% of those who identified as Black, non-Hispanic or African American.”

“You have to be willing to give voice to that data in terms of willingness to accept the vaccine,” she said.

Nesbitt stressed that she wants to “move those acceptance rates and help us gain ground.”

D.C. has recently revamped its COVID-19 vaccine booking site with the aim of streamlining appointments.

To improve the process of booking appointments, D.C. used feedback from the community to update the District’s vaccination registration website and its Coronavirus Call Center.

The Biden administration has promised to ramp up COVID-19 vaccine distribution. D.C. specifically is supposed to start receiving 15% more doses for the next three weeks, which Mayor Muriel Bowser called “welcomed news.”

More Coronavirus News

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.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Writer/Editor for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up