DC to launch COVID-19 vaccine preregistration website Wednesday

D.C. plans to launch its new coronavirus vaccine preregistration website Wednesday, but Mayor Muriel Bowser can’t promise residents there won’t be more frustrations.

Starting March 10, the city said, eligible residents can head to vaccinate.dc.gov or call 1-855-363-0333 to preregister. And after receiving an invitation, people will have 48 hours to book an appointment.

If a resident misses the 48-hour window to book an appointment, their name goes back into the preregistration list and they will have wait until they’re selected by the system again, which can happen up to three times before someone has to reregister.

The District provided a breakdown of vaccine distribution:

But Bowser warned that there could be a considerable delay between preregistering and getting a vaccine shot.

“You will wait to get a call, text or email — your choice — telling you that it’s time to make a vaccination appointment. This could take days, it could take weeks, and it can even take months, depending on your risk factor and eligibility,” she said.

“We do not currently have, weekly, enough vaccine for everybody who wants it. So logic tells us all that when people sign up this week, we won’t have enough vaccine for everybody who wants it. And that will remain the case for weeks and months.”

D.C. is getting an increased number of vaccine doses this week: 24,760, with 14,680 doses for vaccinate.dc.gov, 7,210 doses for hospitals and health centers and 2,870 doses for special initiatives.

Asked why D.C. residents should feel confident in the new preregistration system, Bowser said a rush of people trying to access the website could still cause problems.

“What we can tell people is that we’re doing the best we can to make the technology match the very high demand,” Bowser said. “And what we’re also doing is hopefully ensuring that they won’t have to encounter it week after week.”

“Is there not going to be any [delay]? I can’t tell you that,” the mayor added. “But I can tell you that we are putting together a solution.”

Officials implored residents not to flood the new website if they aren’t eligible.

Chief Technology Officer Lindsey Parker said a spike in visitors is what caused the technical issues seen before.

“Anytime there are a number of people hitting one website at the exact same time, which is what we’ve seen for the past few weeks, Thursdays and Fridays at 9 a.m., a spike of you … call it 200,000 people hitting the site at the exact same time pressing refresh from multiple different devices, you’re always going to have a slight lag, where you’re going to need to ensure that that load on the system is able to be balanced accordingly,” Parker said.

“So what we’re hoping to do with this pre registration system is flatten that spike.”

D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt said there was “no advantage” for non-eligible residents to try to preregister.

“What we don’t want is everyone to rush to the website at one time,” she said. “That’s the process. That’s the reason for establishing a preregistration system. There’s no advantage to a person registering now who’s not eligible.”

The move to a preregistration site comes after weeks of technical issues that frustrated D.C. residents.

Microsoft was selected Friday to handle the new preregistration website despite a continued glitch-plagued process for securing the shots.

Bowser’s full situational report is available online.

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.

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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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