From Councilmember Elissa Silverman <[email protected]>
Subject Vaccine Update: Today, Tomorrow, and Saturday
Date February 26, 2021 1:47 AM
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Good Evening Friend --

COVID-19 Vaccine: What Went Wrong Today and What Will Happen Tomorrow, Saturday, and Next Week Update

I usually don't send emails in the evening or three in one day, but I felt that today's snafu with COVID-19 vaccination registration merits a thorough explanation. Plus, I promised I'd do it.

What Went Wrong Today

It is actually a pretty simple explanation: The online registration system was not updated completely for the expansion to residents ages 18 to 64 with qualifying medical conditions. And the system was not checked by either our contractor, Microsoft, or by DC government to make sure it worked properly before it became live at 9 a.m. This is my plain English translation of the explanation I received that the "workflow was not completely built out" and that there was a "technical review failure." That's why when residents who were younger than 65 with qualifying medical conditions went to register this morning through the online portal, you were informed that you had to be at least 65 years of age. Those who called by phone were given a similar explanation because the call center operators input the information into the very same online registration platform so they were frozen out as well.

According to OCTO, the problem was recognized about 9:25 a.m. and fixed by 9:50 a.m. or thereabouts. DC residents who were eligible in previous priority groups, such as those 65+, were able to sign up for appointments starting at 9 a.m. And some of you in the 18 to 64 age group told me you were able to register later in the morning.

DC Health did send out an email apologizing for the chaos. I was pleased to see that, but I was not happy that the initial explanation was simply that volume overwhelmed the system. That was not accurate. Call volume was about five times previous weeks, but that shouldn't have been a surprise given that the expansion into this next priority group was estimated to include about 160,000 residents. I am told that the delay in recognizing the update issue was because the system was unstable due to the volume. Again, we need to expect that when we expand to a much larger universe, the system will need to have expanded capacity. 

Today's snafu should be a lesson learned: We need to test technology, including any software and system architecture updates, before we make systems live for the public to use. Unfortunately I feel like we are experiencing insanity. This is the second time we had a significant IT testing failure in a week. Last week, 39,000 unemployment insurance claimants did not receive their weekly benefits because a coding update screwed up the payment functionality. We cannot repeat this again.

What Will Happen Tomorrow

I have been assured that the registration system has been properly updated, tested, and has the capacity to handle call volume. Yet there are only 4,350 appointments available, so they will get filled quickly. So tomorrow starting at 9 a.m.,allDC residents ages 18 and older with qualifying medical conditions can try to schedule appointments for the vaccine. Residents can schedule on line through or 855-363-0333. Again, a number of appointment slots will be reserved for those who schedule by phone.

What Will Happen Saturday

Due to the snafu, DC Health will make 3,500 appointments available at 9 a.m. Saturday morning for DC residents ages 18 and 64 with qualifying medical conditions who live in targeted zip codes. These are the same zip codes from today: 20422, 20011, 20017, 20018, 20002, 20001, 20019, 20020, 20032, 20593. I am told that these are appointments for vaccination doses that will be in next week's allocation.

What Will Happen Next Week

DC residents 16 and 17 years of age with qualifying medical conditions can schedule appointments for the vaccine. These appointments will be coordinated by Children's National Medical Center. More information coming soon.

Additional Vaccine Registration for DC Residents

DC hospitals also receive limited vaccine allocations.

As of 8 p.m. this evening, Howard University Hospital has vaccine appointments available currently for DC residents ages 65 and older. 

The registration link is here: [link removed]

United Medical Center also has been scheduling vaccination appointments for eligible residents in Wards 7 & 8. Call 202-574-6473 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m

Qualifying Medical Conditions List


Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and other Chronic Lung Disease

Bone Marrow and Solid Organ Transplantation


Cerebrovascular Disease

Chronic Kidney Disease

Congenital Heart Disease

Diabetes Mellitus

Heart Conditions, such as Heart Failure, Coronary Artery Disease, or Cardiomyopathies



Immunocompromised State

Inherited Metabolic Disorders

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Liver Disease

Neurologic Conditions

Obesity, BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2


Severe Genetic Disorders

Sickle Cell Disease


To sum up, these are the priority groups eligible right now to get the vaccine in DC: Individuals who work in health care settings; DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department workers; residents of long-term and intermediate care facilities and residents of community residential facilities/group homes; DC residents 65+; individuals experiencing homelessness; Metropolitan Police Department employees; Department of Corrections employees and residents; teachers and staff who are working in person at a traditional or public charter school; child care workers and teachers and staff at independent schools in DC; individuals who work in a grocery store/retail food outlet; outreach workers in health, human, and social services; individuals who work in manufacturing; individuals who work in food packaging; DC residents 16-64 years old with qualifying medical conditions.

My personal apologies for today's chaos. Many government services are handled now by technology, and we need these systems to work. And we have to recognize, as well, that not everyone has access to high-speed internet and a computer, so we need to make sure we are not excluding residents by only relying on IT. We need to have modern call centers that can handle variations in call volume. We need logistics experts who can apply their knowledge across programs. These are issues not limited to vaccine distribution, and they will help frame my oversight of DC government. Let me know if you have further thoughts or questions.

Again, sorry for the late night email. I hope you have a better night than we had this morning.


Councilmember Elissa Silverman

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Councilmember Elissa Silverman - United States

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