Why DC went ahead with vaccinating those age 65+ against COVID-19

Life expectancies in D.C.’s many neighborhoods are playing a big role in how the District is rolling out its COVID-19 vaccination plans.

“We have been very thoughtful about the age for our Phase 1b population,” D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt told reporters during a Thursday news conference.

“Our residents who live in Ward 8 have a life expectancy of 72. Residents who live in Ward 3 have a life expectancy of 86. If you look up our 51 statistical neighborhoods, our residents who live in our neighborhood with the lowest life expectancy, that expectancy is 68 years of age, and the neighborhood with the highest life expectancy is 89.”

Nesbitt said that if the District had started vaccinating people age 75 or older, “we would have missed the opportunity to have an impact in our communities with the highest burden of disease.”

“So, a lot of the decisions that we are making are completely focused on having an impact on equity, having an impact on those with the highest burden of disease. And we will continue to be flexible and nimble on our program on a weekly basis,” Nesbitt said.

Vaccine appointments for priority groups are released a day before the appointments that are released citywide. Appointments can be made online or through the District’s Coronavirus Call Center at 1-855-363-0333.

There are also vaccine hunters in the D.C. region who can help.

Nesbitt addressed concerns over military veterans getting their vaccine doses, with reports that some have been turned away, noting that the D.C. government doesn’t operate the VA Medical Center in the District.

“So anyone who was being turned away from a VA Medical Center, because of the date by which they access services from the VA, that is a decision being made by the leadership of the VA system, not one being made by the state or local government,” Nesbitt said.

“We will continue to be aligned with any federal, or in communication with, any federal entity that receives vaccines in our jurisdiction to understand what their plan for rollout is, and to ensure that they are serving the population in our community that is supposed to have access to vaccines from that entity,” she added.

“But we’re not turning anybody (away),” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said. “If they called us, and a person was 65, and went through their portal, they would still be able to get an appointment.”

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.

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