Virginia health care workers with jobs in D.C. assured access to initial vaccine under tweak to relief bill

Health care workers screen a patient for COVID-19 at a drive-through coronavirus testing site on March 18, 2020 in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The bipartisan COVID-19 relief bill that Congress is rushing to complete before the end of the year is poised to include a fix for a vaccine allocation mismatch that could affect health care workers from Virginia and Maryland who commute to jobs in the District of Columbia.

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, (D-Va.), says that he’s secured a provision in a bipartisan relief bill that’s being drafted that would ensure that Virginia and Maryland health care workers don’t lose out on being among the first in line for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Under the current federal formula, “too many of Virginia’s health care professionals who work in DC may miss out on getting priority access to this potentially lifesaving vaccine,” Warner said in a statement shared first with States Newsroom.

“That’s why I am proud to know that I was able to go back to the drawing board and work with my Republican colleagues to agree on a fix that will ensure that areas with a high rate of cross-jurisdictional workers … are able to get an equitable amount of doses,” said Warner, who has been a key figure in crafting the $908 billion relief proposal.

“Now, we’ve got to get this deal across the finish line,” he added.

Roughly 75% of D.C.’s more than 80,000 health care workers live in Maryland or Virginia, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said last week. But the District is only expecting to receive 6,800 vaccine doses in the initial batch later this month, according to the Washington Post.

Those initial vaccine doses are recommended to be used first by health care workers and those in long-term care facilities. But Bowser says the anticipated number of doses for D.C. will be far too small to cover those critical workers, because commuters from out of state aren’t factored into D.C.’s vaccine allocation.

The first of two proposed vaccines that have been submitted to the Food and Drug Administration could be approved for use this week. That’s the vaccine from U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech. A second proposed vaccine from U.S. biotech company Moderna will be considered for FDA approval next week.