The Washington Post
What you need to know about Maryland’s, Virginia’s and the District’s rules and procedures for getting a coronavirus shot.
More than 1 out of every 100 Americans have now been vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, the virus that has overturned life as we know it for nearly a year. In the Washington region, more than 200,000 people have gotten shots. With millions more to go, here are answers to some questions you might have about how the District, Maryland and Virginia are administering vaccines — and when and how you can get your shot.
Q: Who can get a vaccine right now in the Washington region? A: The first people to get shots in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, like most of the country, are those who work in health-care jobs that directly expose them to contagions. Workers eligible for the vaccine right now include many who work in hospitals and urgent-care facilities, ambulance workers and home health aides. All three jurisdictions have started administering vaccines to people living in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes.
Some workers get the vaccine at their workplace. Others can register for an appointment at a pharmacy or health center to get vaccinated there.
Q: How many doses have been given out so far?
A: As of early this week, Virginia has received just under 482,000 doses of vaccine and is scheduled to receive more than 100,000 more by Saturday. So far, the state reported vaccinating more than 126,000 people, although officials say the actual number is higher because a new online data system has made it difficult for providers to log their performance.
Maryland has received 292,000 doses and is scheduled to receive more than 120,000 additional doses by Saturday. So far, the state has vaccinated more than 87,000 people.
The District has received more than 35,000 doses and is scheduled to receive an additional 17,000 by Saturday. The city has administered more than 17,000 shots, but the true count is unknown because more than 40 percent of the pharmacies administering shots have not yet started correctly using the city’s vaccineinformation reporting system, according to D.C. Health Director Laquandra Nesbitt.
Q: Which groups will get vaccinated next?
A: All three jurisdictions next will offer vaccines to the elderly, people with certain medical conditions and essential workers.
In the District, health officials made vaccines available to all residents 65 and older beginning Monday; to grocery store workers, child-care workers, elementary through high school teachers and other front-line workers beginning Jan. 25; and people with certain chronic medical conditions and remaining high-priority workers such as essential government employees beginning Feb. 1.
Maryland next will offer vaccines to people 75 and older, to residents and staff of “special needs group homes,” and to teachers beginning about Feb. 1. After that, starting in early March, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said the state will vaccinate people over 65 and essential workers, including grocery workers, public transit workers, Postal Service workers, manufacturing workers and more.
Virginia’s plan is similar. Next up will be people 75 and older and front-line essential workers; and then people 65 and older, all adults with high-risk medical conditions and remaining essential workers.
Q: Which medical conditions will qualify residents for early coronavirus vaccines?
A: Health departments in the District, Maryland and Virginia have not yet clarified which health conditions will qualify residents to get early access to vaccination, but they might include diabetes, asthma, cancer and other conditions.
In the District, Nesbitt said she will make the list based on which diseases make a person most likely to suffer severe effects from the virus, but also based on how many health-care workers and elderly residents choose to get vaccinated this month, which will give the health department a better sense of how many people it can offer vaccines in February.
Q: If I work in one state but live in another, where should I get vaccinated?
A: Across the region, health-care workers can get vaccinated in the state in which they work. Because the District has a large number of health-care workers who reside in Maryland and Virginia, both states gave thousands of doses allotted to them by the federal government to the District to help vaccinate workers at D.C. hospitals.
This policy should apply to other essential workers going forward. The District has clarified, for example, that teachers who work in D.C. but live elsewhere will be able to get shots in the District.
Q: Can I make an appointment or register now to get a vaccine?
A: Unless you’re a health-care worker, no. You may have seen a website or a bar code to sign up for a vaccine appointment, but local health departments in D.C., Maryland and Virginia have urged residents not to use those links, which are meant for health-care workers at the moment.
Q: How can I find out when it’s my turn to get a vaccine?
A: In Maryland, residents who are signed up for the state’s emergency text alerts will get a text message each time the state starts vaccinating a new group. To sign up, send a text message to 898211 with the phrase “Mdready.”
Virginia residents can check vdh.virginia.gov/covid-19vaccine and residents of D.C. can check coronavirus.dc.gov/ vaccine for more information on vaccine stages.
Q: Where are the vaccines being administered?
A: Some vaccines are being administered at hospitals to the employees there, and at nursing homes to both workers and residents. Most are being distributed to pharmacies — including major chains Giant and Safeway — and to nonprofit health centers including Mary’s Center, Unity Health Care and others.
In Montgomery County, leaders have discussed hosting mass vaccination clinics, where people would line up at a public facility for shots. Elsewhere in the region, the plan is for coronavirus vaccines to be administered to the public much like annual flu shots, mostly at pharmacies.
Q: Are pharmacies giving vaccines to anyone if they have extra doses left at the end of the day?
A: Law student David Macmillan’s now-viral Tiktok video seems to be the source of this rumor. Macmillan and a friend got lucky: They were shopping at a Giant grocery store in Northeast Washington when a pharmacist offered to vaccinate them because she had an open vial of the vaccine that would otherwise be discarded and the store was closing soon.
Could the same thing happen to you? It’s extremely unlikely.
The D.C. health department does urge pharmacists to use doses on any available person rather than let them expire. However, hospitals and health centers have an on-call list of their own staff members who are not front-line workers but who could get vaccinated if an extra dose needs to be used. Hanging out at your nearest pharmacy or calling grocery stores is not at all likely to get you a vaccination — and spending extra time in public places is a very bad idea if you’re not vaccinated.
Basically, if you’re not an essential worker or in another prioritized group, the best thing to do is stay home and wait.
Q: Are coronavirus vaccinations free?
A: Yes. Under federal law, Americans won’t pay for the vaccine.