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VA faces huge undertaking in vaccinating millions of military members against COVID-19

VA
Posted at 12:09 PM, Dec 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-18 13:11:02-05

The Department of Veteran's Affairs (VA) is facing a huge undertaking as COVID-19 vaccines roll out to the general public.

More than 418,000 healthcare workers and 10 million patients will eventually get the COVID-19 vaccine through the VA.

The department received 73,000 doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine this week, and residents and staff at long term communities run by the department are first in line to be inoculated.

There are about 17,500 veterans living in VA long-term care facilities across the country, and several thousand more work in those centers.

The vaccine could not have arrived sooner for those staff members and patients.

"I know a lot of VA medical centers are going through COVID surges right now, alongside with their communities," said Dr. Jane Kim, the Chief Consultant for Preventive Medicine at the VA.

Most vaccines are mandatory for military members. For now, the COVID-19 vaccine is still voluntary. That's likely due to the limited supply of the vaccine and because it's only under Emergency Use Authorization right now.

Still, veteran doctors want to reassure their patients.

"I got the vaccine yesterday," Kim said. "I had a sore arm yesterday, but my arm feels good today. I feel fine today. I would recommend this vaccine to my family and also my patients when it's available for them and it's their turn."

More than 5,500 veteran patients and 87 VA staff members have died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. That doesn't include state-run veteran's homes.

The VA is not responsible for providing COVID-19 vaccines to those state-run veteran's homes.