Vaccine rollout will begin in low-barrier shelters Feb. 1

A container labelled Coronavirus vaccine.

Photo courtesy of Hakan Nural/

D.C. was set to begin distributing COVID-19 vaccines to people experiencing homelessness in low-barrier shelters, including hypothermia overflow shelters and Pandemic Emergency Program for Medically Vulnerable Individuals centers, starting Monday, Feb. 1, according to an announcement by the D.C. Department of Human Services.

UPDATE: Due to inclement weather conditions in the D.C. area, these efforts are delayed. Appointments will be rescheduled “as soon as possible,” according to an announcement by Unity Health Care. Sleet and snow are reported to continue into Tuesday.

The department is collaborating on the rollout with Unity Health Care, a nonprofit that offers medical services to people experiencing homelessness in D.C. This distribution is part of Phase 1B of the vaccine rollout in the District, which includes essential workers and at-risk populations. 

The initial rollout will include homeless people living outside the shelters “to the extent possible” pending resources and availability, said William Kuennen, a program manager with DHS, during a Jan. 22 briefing. The number of doses allocated for low-barrier shelters has not been confirmed, according to the department. 

Unity Health Care will work with DHS to provide medical direction and clinics at the selected shelter locations. Vaccines will be administered beginning at shelters with the largest number of residents and continuing to locations with the fewest people. Staff at shelters are encouraged to receive the vaccine but are not required to do so at this time.  Unlike most vaccine appointments in the District, a photo I.D. is not required to receive the vaccine at the shelter clinics. 

The rollout is predicted to take eight weeks to complete the second dose. Kuennen said DHS is focused on effective communication, with an emphasis on affirming that the vaccine is safe and free. 

Image showing multiple flyers describing vaccine safety. "Protect Yourself: Get the COVID-19 Vaccine," "How does the COVID-19 Vaccine Work?" and "It's safe, effective and free!"
The D.C. Department of Human Services is putting an effort into communication surrounding the vaccine, according to the department. Screenshot courtesy of the D.C. Department of Human Services

Update (02.01.2021)

This article has been updated to include the most recent scheduling information regarding vaccine access for the homeless community.

Issues |COVID-19|Health, Physical

Region |Washington DC

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