- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 10, 2020

The District will receive 6,825 doses of the coronavirus vaccine created by drugmaker Pfizer in its first shipment, the city’s top health official said Thursday.

The vaccine will be given to groups of people in three phases, Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, director of the D.C. Department of Health, said during a press conference.

Health care workers and first responders are in Phase 1A, and will be the first people offered the shot. More than 85,000 people are in Phase 1A, and the vaccines will be given to those who work in the District “regardless of their place of residence,” Dr. Nesbitt said.

Priority will be given to front-line health care workers with direct exposure to patients.

Dr. Nesbitt said those workers are prioritized based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure “a healthy workforce to treat and care for sick people” and to “protect patients.”

Phase 1B includes essential workers and at-risk residents. The second phase includes the rest of Phase 1 populations and the general public, and Phase 3 includes the general public.

“Each phase does not have to be fully vaccinated before we move on to the next phase,” Dr. Nesbitt said. “We will take into consideration acceptance and adoption of the vaccine before we make decisions of moving on to subsequent phases.

“The first doses will be doled out to six health care facilities within the city that have the necessary equipment to store them. More than 170 health care facilities have registered to administer the vaccines. An online registration system eventually will be launched to allow health care workers to sign-up for inoculation.

“While logistically vaccine may be able to be deployed to communities within a day of the Emergency Use Authorization approval, there [are] still other things that need to be put in place at the community level,” the health director said.

The CDC must create recommendations for vaccine distribution and vaccinators must receive training, she said.

However, the distribution plans cannot be implemented until the Food and Drug Administration approves the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use. An FDA advisory committee met Thursday to approve authorization of the vaccine.

The Pfizer vaccine requires two shots administered several weeks apart. Dr. Nesbitt said the District’s shipment will contain only the first dose.

“We are not expecting to only vaccinate 3,400 individuals out of these first set of doses,” she said in response to a question.

Based on the CDC’s process, “we are to anticipate receiving or being able to access additional vaccine on a weekly or every other week basis,” Dr. Nesbitt added.

“Our ability to access that vaccine is contingent upon the production schedule of the manufacturer, and [the] demand for vaccine in our community,” she said.

Last week, Mayor Muriel Bowser requested more vaccine doses from the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed because the first expected shipment would only cover a small fraction of the city’s health care employees.

Health officials also reported 244 new COVID-19 cases in the District, bringing the total to 23,319, of which 17,291 have recovered. Additionally, four more deaths raised the toll to 708.The District has more than 705,000 residents, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The seven-day average daily case rate per 100,000 people is 40.9, and the mean turnaround time for tests is 3.3 days, both of which have been in the “red” zone of reopening phases for more than two weeks.

• Emily Zantow can be reached at ezantow@washingtontimes.com.

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