New rollout tool notifies high-risk Vets when to expect their vaccine


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With two COVID-19 vaccines available for emergency use and deliveries starting at VA health care facilities, many Veterans are wondering when they can receive the vaccine.

Facilities will notify Veterans at high risk for contracting the virus or those who could develop serious illness about their eligibility and when they can expect to get their vaccine.

This is possible because of VA’s new data outreach tool.

The COVID-19 Vaccine Outreach for Veterans software program uses data in the VHA Support Service Center (VSSC) databases to find Veterans who are in high-risk groups. Because the vaccines are new and in high demand, quantities are limited. They’re being given to the most at-risk groups first.

Using database to sort Veterans by age and health conditions

VA follows the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines to determine who should be offered the vaccine first when supply is limited. Since VA medical records are electronic, facilities can use the VSSC database to sort Veterans by their ages or if they have high-risk health conditions.

It can then provide medical facilities with a list of Veterans who should be offered vaccine first.

Pictured above, registered nurse Sandra Getchell gives the COVID-19 vaccine to World War II Veteran Margaret Klessens, 96. Klessens is a resident of VA Bedford Healthcare System’s community living center.

Klessens was the first VA patient nationwide to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and has now received her second vaccine. (VA photo by Kat Bailey)

“The Vaccine Outreach for Veterans program was designed to review records of all Veterans receiving care throughout the VA health system to determine their risk level and when they should be offered the COVID-19 vaccine,” according to Stacey Campbell, VSSC’s deputy director.

Tool ensures Veterans can be easily identified

VSSC worked with the COVID-19 Vaccine Project National Integrated Project Team (IPT) Prioritization Group to develop the tool and ensure that Veterans could be easily identified based on age or underlying conditions.

The tool uses patient identifiers to show a patient’s medical conditions, age, gender, and serious and pre-existing health conditions. It also shows current disease treatments, such as chemotherapy or dialysis, and other risk factors for severe COVID-19, such as smoking or obesity.

A patient’s medical record can reveal a patient’s interest in receiving the vaccine. It also contains contact information so their local facility can notify them of their prioritized eligibility.

Veterans may be notified by their local facility using traditional mailing or electronic notification systems. These systems include VEText or My HealtheVet. Veterans also may receive calls from patient case managers.

Important tool to keep Veterans healthy and safe

“It’s helpful if providers that Veterans know and trust for their care help with outreach. We want Veterans to know this is an important tool to keep them healthy and safe,” sayid Patti Wallace, the senior clinical advisor for the VHA Office of Healthcare Transformation. She was instrumental in bringing the work of the IPT together with VSSC for use in the field.

The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has multiple phases for the vaccine based on availability. Most VA facilities are in the first phase (Phase 1a), which ensures the most vulnerable people get the vaccine first.

VA facilities can start offering vaccines to those covered under Phase 1b of the CDCs allocation guidelines when they have made good progress through Phase 1a.

Dr. Jane Kim is the chief consultant for preventive medicine at the National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. She has been leading a team of experts, including public health, infectious disease, pharmacy, ethics and equity in anticipation of the vaccine rollout.

Dr. Sophia Califano is the deputy chief consultant for preventive medicine. She worked with these experts to adapt CDC guidance on phased allocation of vaccine for VA. Her team worked closely with the VSSC team to develop the software tool and ensure it captured the right information and made it easy for facility outreach teams to contact Veterans.

Ensuring those most at risk are at the front of the line

Califano noted that the process to determine risk levels is intentionally straightforward to help Veterans understand why they are being offered the vaccine and how it may benefit them. This ensures that those most at risk are at the front of the line and phases can move quickly. The goal is to quickly offer the vaccine to as many staff and Veterans as vaccine supply permits.

Veterans who would be eligible in Phase 1b due to their profession may have access to the vaccine through their place of work before enough vaccine is available through VA. All Veterans and staff are encouraged to get vaccinated at their first available opportunity.

For example, their state may offer them the vaccine before VA does. You can provide a picture of the COVID-19 vaccination card to your VA provider through secure messaging and request it be added to your records.

“We want to encourage Veterans to get the COVID vaccine as soon as it becomes available to them,” Califano said. We believe this is the best path forward and the best way to protect you and your family.”

Updates on COVID-19 information will be posted on the VA Access to Care website. Also, information on COVID-19 vaccines at VA can be found here.


Gina Pattison is a Dynamic Integrated Services writer for the VA Office of Quality and Patient Safety.

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. Remy Parker    

    Little logic has been used in rolling this out. The system does not factor in essential workers, because of the assumption that i should be have been vaccinated I have to be back at work with no hoped of getting a vaccines anytime soon. Military and DOD workers will be some of the last to receive, while being required to work the entire time.

  2. Roger k young    

    Iam 71 years old and in Fla.for the winter my VA already called to get a shot from them in ct.iam not there and not safe to travel,how should I go about getting it here in Fla.

  3. Whistle Blower    

    The VA could do a better job being transparent about the process and communicating proactively with Vets. At my VA (and maybe elsewhere), unused dosages from cancellations are given out to anyone at the end of the day. No vaccinations given to the VA should be administered to any friends and family of VA staff before they are offered to eligible Vets.

  4. Edward T Johnson    

    I am a 71 year old Veteran with copd, heart disease, cancer survivor. Call my local VA clinic in Ukiah Ca. once a week for access to covid shots and told maybe next week, you are on the list. We will call you. No call. Call again today, and Maggie says your not on the list. I ask why not ? She says, well they changed the list. This is what I expect to hear in ” regular” times. These ain’t regular times. Seems the roll out flamed out.

  5. John Stevenson    

    How could we have been told to get vaccine but we can’t because VA is using odd guidelines. It was supposed to be over 65 with medical problems go high on list. I’m 67 and have diabetes asthma irregular heart rate heart problems and I take 20 medications such asblood thinners every day but I can’t get on the list?

  6. Donald L. Marvin    

    I am a resident of Michigan,73yrs of age and a Vietnam Veteran with hypertension. How can I go about registering to get the Covid vaccine through the VA.

    Donald L. Marvin

  7. Richard Arlington Doxey    

    I am 76 years old, with diabetics, heart condition, COPD, overweight, I would like to know when the COVID 19 vaccine will be available. I have not seen my provider in over a year except for a brief phone call. I am afraid to go out side of the house. When is the vaccine going to be available for us Veterans. My wife has already had her first and is scheduled. For her second shot. I would be very appreciated for an answer. I have tried to contact local VA clinic and have not been able to get through to them and the Haley VA hospital in Tampa without any contact. Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

  8. Charles Edward McGee Jr    

    I have several friends who have far fewer medical issues than I have; are several years younger than I am; and have received the COVID Vaccine at the VA. I completed cancer treatment less than a year ago and am currently being treated for Interstitial Lung Disease, Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Arterial Flutter, Bullous Pemphigoid and Neuropathy; several of which are autoimmune diseases. Although most of my treatment is conducted at Civilian facilities, my VA Primary Care doctor is aware of all my medical issues. The Baltimore, MD VA held a walk-in Vaccine Clinic this past weekend but it was so crowded that I left. I’m not exactly sure how individuals are being selected for Vaccine appointments, but if I don’t qualify to get an expedited appointment I’m not sure who is. I would like to get the Vaccine as soon as possible.

    1. Roger Ames    

      I am 70 with sirrosis, 1 kidney at 40%, enlarged spleen, diabetics, 2 times with cancer. It seems to me that the VA is going totally by age.

  9. Phil    

    From reading these comments, VA needs to do a better job on the local level at getting information out to Veterans!
    Veterans need to do a better job at updating their info so VA can contact them as well.
    All Veterans beware, my 88yo father (Veteran as well) had his first dose and the day he was supposed to get his second dose was admitted for full blown Covid. Remember the effectiveness is only 95% with both doses, 50% with the first so keep your guard up, avoid unnecessary exposure and keep up with the masks and hand washing! Numbers may or may not be correct but close!

  10. Robert McCormick    

    My Dad 94 yr old WW2 veteran all sorts of comorbidities got his vaccine on 2 Feb thru the VA at his house. The Nurse stayed an hour and made sure he was ok. They are working there way thru all the older people first. They will be opening up a mass vaccine clinic shortly for the ambulatory. Can’t say enough how good the Albany NY Stratton VA has been.

  11. Marvin S. Johnson    

    I am 67 and have COPD and have been a patient at WPBVA for years. Why are there no vaccinations for vet’s like me????

  12. Brenda Priest    

    With the pandemic, loss of jobs and insurance through your work, the VA hospitals and clinics are extraordinarily overwhelmed with an extremely large amount of veterans seeking health care NOW. The U.S. military leaders have a branch and their job is to be prepared to handle emergency anything for our VAs. My claim is that NO ONE IS DOING THE JOB! Veterans calls take too long to be answered. The pharmacy is horribly behind in dispensing refills. The patient’s my healthEVet secure messages are going unanswered (no reply) for months and the staff is extremely to small. So what is the hold up? I say our leaders are not being held responsible nor accountable for the jobs they get paid to do. I’m sorry our U.S. is at this point in time. God, bless all for doing their jobs and their share of overtime.

  13. Ronald Coleman    

    VA patients have a PROBLEM-LIST in their health records.

    Through the MY HEALTHEVET program, at the VA, we can print out our Problem Lists.

    You will find your underlying conditions there. Their is a SELF ENTERED file for outside

    meds, vitamins and medical services.

    MY HEALTHEVET is a trove of medical information for curiosity, peace of mind, and

    understanding for our blood work, radiology reports, and Doctors Notes for all

    procedures/visits.

    I go to the Reno, Nevada VA Hospital, and our MHV program is run by Jeff Holmes.

  14. Dean hittleman    

    I will go and buy the vaccine as soon as it becomes available I am on immune suppressant infusions and have 10 other points that place me at the highest risk BUT I’m only 61 and I’ll be dead before they offer it to me! I will go buy it like I did the shingles vaccine and other treatments I need because once they pass the buck IT STAYS PASSED!

    1. Ronald Coleman    

      I live in Reno/Sparks Nevada and their are now 5 places to get the vaccine outside the VA.

      I went to the County Health Depts. web to find them. All their web sites were overloaded, but

      perseverance got me in around 4pm and I got my 1st shot the next morning at the Smiths

      grocery store. The VA won’t list them for some reason!

      Good Luck

  15. James Monko    

    Are all veterans going to be able to receive the COVID shot?? My wife is a veteran. She is 71 years old. Is in Group 8 VA health care. She has medical problems but no service connected disabilities. Will the VA medical give her a COVID shot? All the news releases need to cover this. Are you going to give disabled veterans shots only or all veterans that served their country honorably? When you send out news releases know your receivers. Please consider all veterans on your news releases.

  16. PATRICIA Firestone    

    I am a 59 year old 100% service connected veteran for severe asthma and I have thyroid and obesity issues. I went in person to the VA in Las Vegas where they were giving vaccines. I was told point blank that I am not high priority. I was told they are doing 70 years and older right now and high risk which is only people that are getting chemotherapy, diabetics, kidney transplants, etc. I was told asthma is not high priority. I am normally seen at Nellis AFB and I just recently switched care back over to the VA. I don’t think I’m even in their system to be notified. I tried to explain this but she just shrugged. Don’t sure what to do at this point.

    1. Brenda Priest    

      Hi Patricia, I’m Brenda, call your local hospital or DHS and ask if they have vaccines for the highly at risk. Then see what they tell you. God bless you and good luck

  17. TAMMIE JO MCCALL    

    63 year old with COPD & ASPTHMAwhen do you think I can get vaccinated? I usually go to Sepulvida VA in CA,. Thanks

  18. Randy Schnedler    

    How do snowbird get vaccinated??

  19. Carolyn Ruth Newton    

    Age 70 and above came after essential workers. Contact your primary at the local VA Hospital. Do not wait for them to contact you.

  20. Carolyn Ruth Newton    

    Your age group was first after health care workers. You might want to contact your primary and there should be a direct number as my VA hospital has now a covid-19 clinic.

  21. Sandra L Wade    

    If the disabled high risk Veteran has traveled outside their state of Residence and. Attached Primary care VA facility, When notified for scheduling Vacine appointment CAN THE VET GO TO NEAREST VA FACILITY? OR DO THEY NEED TO RETURN TO HOME STATE?
    Thank you

  22. Lori A. Campbell    

    Question: How effective do you believe your new “Rollout Tool” is? Do you have the correct staffing for your new rollout? What check and balance are in place? The above comments showcase a few areas that are not aligned with this new rollout. Also, It’s clear some veteran’s are left behind and remain in the DARK.

    It is so unfortunate that veterans have to get creative and ask each other questions, hoping to get answers that should come from medical staff. VA Health is one of the largest medical centers in the US.

    It is unfair to have veterans posting their medical diagnoses and health information online for the world to see.

    I recommend that each VA Medical facility create a COVID Task Force Rollout and have designated multiple COVID teams who personally reach out to patients assigned to their panel. However, the patient load must be divided equally so that no one is left behind. No group should be wishing and wondering when they’ll get answers. It’s obvious the last efforts demonstrate they have been left behind by
    releasing personal information.

    Hire temp staff, nursing students, volunteer nurses who have worked for the VA. Ask retired military and veteran nurses to assist. You have the data of veterans in your area.

    -STEP UP AND LEAN IN.

    Communication is KEY.

    1. Carolyn Ruth Newton    

      Maybe not your own state but where you receive your health care from.

  23. Eileen Stoner    

    I don’t see where we can add our health conditions to data base. I have asthma and obesity. I go to Bay Pines FL VA.

  24. Gary Van Norman Haas    

    I am a 70 year old Veteran with COPD and a vaccine as soon as possible.

  25. Gary Van Norman Haas    

    I am a 70 year old Veteran with COPD and need a vaccine as soon as possible. I live in Chehalis, Washington.

  26. Richard Lewis Coleman    

    Is the app available to veterans? How can it be downloaded?

Comments are closed.