D.C. Residents Are Traveling to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine

Jessica Wong

Natalie drove more than 100 miles on March 25 to get a COVID-19 vaccine at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration set up a mass vaccination site. Traveling that far, she says, made sense because she figured she’d never get the […]


Natalie drove more than 100 miles on March 25 to get a COVID-19 vaccine at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration set up a mass vaccination site. Traveling that far, she says, made sense because she figured she’d never get the COVID-19 vaccine in D.C., where she’s lived for the last three years.   

The National Guard welcomed Natalie when she arrived at the arena in Salisbury, Maryland. They checked if she had an appointment (she did), and requested to see some form of photo identification (which she had). She showed her D.C.-issued ID, which lists her address in Ivy City, a handful of times before she got the jab, but says no one at the vaccine site asked her about it. 

“They never did a double take. They never questioned if I was moving to Maryland. I never felt judged,” Natalie, who requested to be identified by only her first name due to the nature of her work. “They’re all doctors and nurses. I feel like they were focusing more on their job of just helping people, as opposed to gatekeeping help that people need.” 

Natalie, who is 31 and works at a global philanthropy non-profit, says she has a qualifying medical condition that makes her vaccine-eligible in Maryland and the District. But booking an appointment in the jurisdiction where she lives proved frustrating. She became eligible in late February, when DC Health opened the vaccine portal to residents 18 and over with qualifying medical conditions. She was among the tens of thousands of people who tried to claim one of the couple thousand appointments that became available two days a week. 

The Hunger Games-style system, which was riddled with technical issues, is Natalie’s main gripe with the city’s vaccine rollout. Natalie believes the new pre-registration system that launched March 10 is better. But once her partner got an appointment through D.C.’s lottery system and family members in other parts of the country got vaccinated, Natalie decided she could wait no longer and started searching for other ways to get the shot. She became a vaccine hunter.  

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