- - Wednesday, April 7, 2021

The District of Columbia is an illustrious city, but lately, its pride has been wounded. The foreboding fences that have walled off the Capitol complex since the violence of Jan. 6 are a dismal sight, especially for tourists. The massive outer fence has been quietly removed but the smaller interior fence remains, heavily guarded by soldiers with machine guns.

But something else is just as disturbing to the city’s residents: their struggles to score the coveted coronavirus vaccine. Bureaucratic rules are interfering with public health during the still-perilous pandemic.

As the oceans of the medical elixir are injected into arms across the American expanse, the compact, 69-square-mile federal district that rests beneath the president’s feet has reportedly lagged far behind. In the capital, just 16% of the city’s 705,000 residents have received the full, two-dose vaccination, according to records compiled by The New York Times. Only Alabama, Georgia and Utah have fared worse, and even desolate Wyoming surpasses the District. With 580,000 residents scattered sparingly over 98,000 square miles, the so-called Equality State has an inoculation rate of 18%.

At the direction of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccines meant for hundreds of thousands of federal workers who live in Maryland and Virginia and flood into the city during the workday are included in the District’s allocation, The Atlantic magazine reports.

When these out-of-town workers schedule their vaccine appointments at CVS pharmacies and other sites in the city, that means fewer doses are available for local residents. Five months into the vaccination process, still only those 65 and older who are not essential workers can receive a dose in the District. By contrast, elderly Floridians received the vaccine months ago and the state is now scheduling appointments for residents as young as 18.

President Biden has made vaccine victory over COVID-19 the cornerstone of his nascent administration. Initially pledging to perform 100 million inoculations within his first 100 days, he has happily overperformed and boosted his goal to 200 million doses within the same period.

The president, though, is not responsible for the happenings outside the front door of the White House. The Founders smartly foresaw the need to create a separate legal domain unbeholden to state influence as the seat of federal power. They could not have imagined, though, the competition pitting federal fiefdoms against city necessities.

As vaccine momentum builds nationwide, Mr. Biden has again accelerated his scheduled inoculation targets. On Tuesday, he proclaimed that all U.S. jurisdictions should prepare to offer the vaccine to every adult not by his original target date of May 1, but by April 19. Following his lead, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that the District would make all residents 16 and older vaccine-eligible that day.

If the capital city can keep up with the rest of the nation, there will be one less bureaucratic barrier to normalcy for those who call D.C. home. Next, something should be done about those inhospitable security fences that have made a fortress of Capitol Hill.

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