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As the Moderna coronavirus vaccine goes through the process of being rolled out in the District, political leaders are urging residents to get vaccinated to fight the virus.

On Dec. 17, D.C. Director of Health Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, along with D.C. Fire and Emergency Management Services Department Chief John Donnelly, took the first shot of the Pifzer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine at Kaiser Permanente’s Capitol Hill office in Northeast, along with others in the department. At a news conference later that day, Nesbitt said she had to set an example by taking the vaccine showing her confidence in its safety and effectiveness.

“People were saying to me, when are you going to do it?” she said. “I decided this was the right time.”

Nesbitt’s inoculation took place as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration started the process of emergency authorization of Moderna, a COVID-19 vaccine, like the Pfizer/BioNTech. Nesbitt spoke about the FDA approval process and Moderna’s presence in the District.

“The Moderna vaccine is going through the same process that Pfizer went through, at the same cadence,” she said. “While Pfizer’s vaccine has to be stored in subfreezing temperatures, Moderna’s can be stored at a normal refrigerator temperature.”

Nesbitt said when the Moderna doses come to the District, they will be distributed to hospitals throughout the city. Eventually, she said, Moderna will be used at long-term care facilities and health care and urgent care workers will be immunized with it.

“Then, we can get Moderna out to the community,” she said.

The presence of the vaccines has spurred a debate among District residents whether they will take the shots against the coronavirus. Some Blacks are wary of the vaccination program because of historic mistreatment that has taken place. The Tuskegee syphilis experiment conducted by the federal government from 1932-1972 in the Alabama town where Black males did not receive adequate treatment for the sexually transmitted disease often has been cited by African Americans for mistrust of the country’s health care system. Nevertheless, leading Black public health officials such as U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams and Nesbitt have urged Blacks to take the vaccine for the individual and collective health of the race.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said at a news conference earlier this month she will take the shots but will wait until front line workers, first responders, nursing home employees and residents are inoculated.

While Bowser said she will wait for her shots, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on Dec. 18 on Capitol Hill. Norton expressed satisfaction with the vaccination and encouraged District residents to get their shots, too.

“I hope to set an example, encouraging my constituents to trust the science, as I do, that has given us this feat of modern medicine, and I urge them to follow my example by getting the vaccine at the earliest opportunity. I am now working to ensure a smooth distribution of this life-saving vaccine to my constituents as soon as possible.”

A spokeswoman for D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) said, “The chairman will get his vaccination when it is his time to do it.” In her e-newsletter to District residents, D.C. Council member Anita Bonds (D-At Large) expressed enthusiasm about the vaccination process.

“I plan to get my vaccine shot when my time comes,” she said. “I encourage you to do so, too.”

D.C. Council member Robert White (D-At Large) stressed the importance of getting the vaccine.

“It is important for residents to get the COVID-19 vaccine,” he said. “I will get one as soon as it is available to me to protect my family and fellow residents.”

Christina Henderson, who will officially become one of the newest members of the D.C. Council as an independent at-large member in January, looks forward to taking the vaccine.

“I will be ready when the public health officials tell me it is time to do that,” Henderson said. “I understand why some Blacks are wary of taking the injection. However, it is Black people who are being affected and dying of COVID-19 and taking the vaccine is the best way to fight it.”

James Wright photo

James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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