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VA Raises Concerns for Vaccine Distribution

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Last week, top officials at the Department of Veterans Health Administration brought up concerns about the distribution of coronavirus vaccines. Dr. Richard Stone, head of the Veterans Health Administration, said that the nation’s largest health care system does not have enough of the vaccine to cover all of its patients and staff.

Following the FDA’s approval, the VA planned to administer 73,000 initial doses of the Pfizer vaccine to its patients and staff. The department placed an order for an additional 122,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine. Even with the additional order, it appears the VA will not immediately be able to provide all of its patients and staff with vaccines.

“This will be a long process for us to reach all 7 million veterans who we believe will want a vaccination from us, as well as all 400,000 employees of the agency. We do anticipate weekly distribution, and it remains to be seen how robust that weekly distribution will be,” Stone said. This is not necessarily new news – several news sources have been clear that the initial distribution of vaccines will likely fall short of what is actually needed in all the places it is shipped.

The VA has worked closely with the CDC and Operation Warp Speed to plan for the vaccination process. Following approval, the vaccine will first go to front-line VA health care workers and Veterans residing in long-term care units. This opening phase will occur in 37 of the VA’s medical centers across the nation. The centers themselves were chosen for their high risk for contracting and spreading the virus. The care of these facilities has been deemed critical for ensuring continued care of veterans.

The VA will continue to work closely with the CDC, reporting their data as vaccines are administered. Public updates will also be shared by the department that will disclose the number of vaccinations.

Regarding the administration of the vaccine to the VA’s staff members, Stone has stated that the vaccine will not be mandatory for VA staff until the vaccines have gone through the full approval process at the FDA. Under the emergency use authorization, vaccines will be voluntary for staff.

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