The Veterans Administration is rolling out the vaccine for COVID-19. But many veterans may be faster served by going through their state and local authorities to get the vaccine instead.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has put its priority on first vaccinating veterans inside of nursing homes. And after what transpired in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and other locations, this is the correct call. 

However, whereas states are following the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) the VA is stricter. 

CDC guidelines state that after healthcare workers and long-term care (LTC) residents are treated, people 65 years old and above and those with conditions that place them at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should be treated first. Yet, after nursing home veterans were vaccinated, some VA centers have begun issuing the vaccine to veterans 85 or older; they will be followed by veterans 75 or older.

“For all those who are enrolled that want the services, we’re following the CDC’s guidelines starting with the oldest first, 85 and above, and 75 and above, and now actually starting to look at some of our veterans that are 65 and older with co-morbidities,” CEO of the Columbia VA, David Omura said. “We’re thrilled to be a part of the solution.”

The VA tells veterans that they should go to the VA facility where they get their care to be vaccinated first before going to other veteran’s hospitals. 

A veteran in a VA long-term care facility getting a COVID-19 vaccine

“Our recommendation is, we’re happy to answer questions, but if you’re already enrolled in a VA, it’d be great if could coordinate that service there,” he said. “If for some reason you’re here for a while and you feel like you need the help, we’re happy to talk to anyone,” Omura added.

The VA’s Bay Pines Health Care System in Florida sent an email to all veterans in the community saying they will begin offering COVID-19 vaccination to veterans older than 75 years, veterans who are homeless, hemodialysis patients, solid organ transplant patients, or patients of any age who are listed for transplant, and chemotherapy.

The email said that veterans should not contact the VA. Instead, it offered a website address where veterans can sign up to receive updates on developments.

“It is important to understand that many Veterans will not be able to get the vaccine during this initial rollout. To reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19, Veterans should not come into a VA facility looking to receive a vaccine, nor to schedule a vaccine appointment. Care teams will contact Veterans when a vaccine is available, based on their personal risk factors and vaccine availability. However, Veterans can sign up to get updated information at this site VA Stay Informed.

Therefore, veterans in the 65-75 age group may be able to receive a vaccine faster by contacting their own state and local sites and scheduling a vaccine appointment. 

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