Several weeks ago, GM looked into the disparity of vaccination rates between east Georgetown and west Georgetown. Those on the east side appeared to be getting vaccines at a noticeably higher rate than their western neighbors. Since then, the disparity has only grown. In fact, on the face of it, west Georgetown has among the worst vaccination rates across the entire city. But could that be a statistical error, and if not, why does it persist?
When GM looked at it last month, about 13% of all east Georgetown residents (and this includes parts of west Dupont) had received at least one shot. Only about 6% of west Georgetowners had at that point.
As of last week, according to data compiled by the invaluable DCCovid.com site, east Georgetown had reached a level of about 21% at least partially vaccinated. West Georgetown is still mired at 9%. That is not just bad relative to East Georgetown. It’s bad compared with the entire city. Look at the map above, this shows vaccination rates by neighborhood, with darker shades reflecting higher rates. West Georgetown is among the lightest shaded neighborhoods. The overall District average is 15%, which is over 50% higher than what west Georgetown is achieving.
The first question to ask is whether this is an accurate reflection of the vaccination rates in Georgetown. These percentages are calculated putting the number of people receiving shots divided by the number of residents. But that second number is tricky for Georgetown. The number used by the city (and other trackers like DCCovid.com) includes the census figures, which for west Georgetown includes census tract 2.01. This tract is just the campus of GU, which in normal times would have about 4,000 people. Needless to say, but GU does not currently house 4,000 people on campus!
Right now, there are approximately 500 seniors and 500 grad students on campus. They join a small group of professors and Jesuits also living on campus. So even conservatively, there are about 1,500 people on campus who would be able to get a vaccine. That reduces the denominator, by about 2,500 people. As of last week, there were 814 people who had received a shot from west Georgetown. With the reduced denominator, that would bring the vaccination rate up to 13%. Not as bad, but still not very good!
Could it be that west Georgetown is just disproportionately young and lacking in pre-existing conditions? This is a possibility that GM looked into last month. East Georgetown has more seniors, who were part of the initial batch of eligible individuals for the vaccine. But the rates of vaccination for seniors is still very uneven across Georgetown. On the east side, 58% of seniors have been vaccinated. On the west, it’s only 47%. That’s not quite as large a disparity as the overall numbers, but since this obviously takes GU students out of the equation, it cannot be written off as a statistical fluke.
At this point, GM can only offer vague speculation as to the root cause. Perhaps west Georgetowners have left town and never returned. As a purely anecdotal matter, GM can say that three houses immediately around him are basically vacant, when in the past they were occupied by as many as seven different people. Vaccine hesitancy is probably not a main cause, but perhaps west Georgetowners are more inclined to wait patiently in line, and not try to game the system at all (although that sort of altruistic sacrificing is hardly in line with the typical Georgetown stereotype!).
Another possibility is that the numerator is wrong too. If people get vaccinated out of state, DC is not likely to reflect that fact in its data. The CDC reports does report this data, but not at the neighborhood level. So there’s no way to true up DC’s data. But this discrepancy should hit all DC neighborhoods roughly equally (particularly when comparing similar neighborhoods). So unless west Georgetowners are disproportionately seeking vaccines out of state, then this is unlikely to be the main driver of the lagging rate.
In either event, more people need to get vaccinated! And to that end, GM highly recommends seeking an appointment with the FEMA site at Greenbelt, MD. You register for the vaccine here (don’t worry about not being a Maryland resident, it is not required). GM was able to get an appoint within days of registering.The whole operation is incredibly smooth. Within five minutes of arriving to the large tent, the shot was given. After a fifteen minute wait afterwards to check for side-effects, GM was back on the road. There wasn’t even time to get emotional about it, it went by so fast! 10/10, will do it again (in three weeks).