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Maryland, Virginia To Send Extra COVID-19 Vaccine To D.C., Tripling Its Allotment

Washington, D.C., Fire and EMS Lt. Keishea Jackson gets a Pfizer coronavirus vaccine shot on Thursday.
Shawn Thew-Pool
Getty Images
Washington, D.C., Fire and EMS Lt. Keishea Jackson gets a Pfizer coronavirus vaccine shot on Thursday.

Virginia and Maryland are sending thousands of extra COVID-19 vaccine doses out of their own supply to the District of Columbia as the city scrambles to inoculate health care workers amid the worsening pandemic.

Each state is sending 8,000 additional doses to the nation's capital. The move will more than triple the amount of the medicine that was allotted by the federal government.

Under the current distribution formula, which is based on residency, D.C. received 6,825 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine — a figure Mayor Muriel Bowser said would cover less than a tenth of the city's health care workers who are first in line to receive the vaccine.

Earlier this month, Bowser sent a letter to officials leading the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed, which oversees the allocation and distribution of the vaccine. In it, she said the paltry shipment was "woefully insufficient" to cover the capital's 85,000 health care workers, 75% of whom don't live in the city but rather in the surrounding states. The mayor urged officials to distribute vaccines based on where health care workers work, not where they live.

"If the early vaccine allotment remains tied to our population we will receive doses for less than 10% of our healthcare workers," Bowser wrote.

She added: "Washington D.C. is unique; our population swells during the regular business hours, with a significant number of federal and healthcare workers commuting into the District from their homes in Maryland and Virginia."

Maryland's acting Secretary of Health Dennis Schrader responded to the call on Wednesday, saying the state would be pleased to partner with the district.

"We believe in working together as part of the National Capital Region to protect all of our citizens, especially our national frontline healthcare heroes," Schrader said in a letteraddressed to D.C. Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt.

The deal with Virginia was reached over the weekend and announced by Nesbitt on Monday. During a news conference, Nesbitt explained the additional doses will allow officials to move on to vaccinating long-term care residents.

"We have to be able to vaccinate individuals who are in the higher risk groups before we can move to Phase Two and Phase Three, where the general public is," Nesbitt said.

Virginia received 72,150 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the batch distributed Monday and Tuesday, while Maryland got 50,700 doses.

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Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.