The first COVID-19 vaccines will arrive at 37 VA facilities in the coming days and vaccinations will begin after VA receives a supply of the vaccine. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that a COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Pfizer received an Emergency Use Authorization.
Following this authorization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made recommendations for use of the authorized vaccine.
The vaccine has proven to be safe and highly effective in clinical trials. There are side effects similar to those after other vaccines but they are short-lived. This COVID-19 vaccine marks a crucial step in getting the COVID-19 pandemic under control.
Offering the vaccine first to health care personnel
The initial supply of the vaccine is limited. Working with the CDC and other federal partners, VA developed a phased plan to benefit the most people.
Under this phased plan, VA will begin vaccinating health care personnel – as they are essential in continuing to care for patients throughout the pandemic. At the same time, VA will vaccinate Veteran inpatients in Community Living Centers and Spinal Cord Injury and Disorder Centers.
VA will vaccinate additional Veterans receiving care from VA at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 after health care personnel have been offered the vaccine.
VA’s ultimate goal is to offer the vaccine to all Veterans receiving care at VA as well as employees who want to be vaccinated.
Contacting Veterans for vaccine appointments
It’s important to understand that many Veterans will not be able to get the vaccine during this initial rollout when supply is limited. To reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19, Veterans should not come into a VA facility seeking a COVID-19 vaccine.
Care teams will contact Veterans directly when a vaccine is available, based on each Veteran’s risk factors.
However, Veterans can sign up to get updated information through our Keep Me Informed tool.
VA is committed to making sure Veterans can receive a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible, both in our VA facilities as well as through our community provider networks once available. VA will make sure to provide additional information as vaccine availability increases.
Receiving the vaccine
The Pfizer vaccine will be administered in 2 doses. The second dose will be given 21 days after the first dose. To stay safe and continue to protect yourself and others, even those who receive a vaccine should follow the 3 W’s:
- Wear a mask.
- Wash your hands.
- Watch your distance – stay 6 feet apart.
VA looks forward to offering the vaccine and asks all Veterans and VA health care personnel for their patience during this initial rollout.
*This blog was edited on 12/21/20 to reflect updates to vaccination info and community provider networks.
Jane Kim, MD, MPH, is the chief consultant for Preventive Medicine at the National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Patient Care Services.