The COVID-19 pandemic has altered every facet of our lives, and the arrival of the vaccine this winter finally brought us closer to defeating it. This virus is deadly, and each of us has been affected differently. We lost family members, colleagues, battle buddies, and friends. It is imperative that we vaccinate as many people as possible as quickly as possible.
At VA alone, we’ve treated thousands of cases, many of them requiring extended in-patient care. While we are seeing more hope than ever for a return to normal activities, make no mistake the end of this pandemic is not guaranteed without each of us continuing to take action. We haven’t crossed the finish line yet and we must not get complacent.
Veterans know better than most what it means to serve and sacrifice for this great nation, and I consider getting the vaccine a continuation of that service.
Protect those around you
You getting the vaccine protects those around you, especially those who are unable to get the vaccine, or those particularly vulnerable to the terrible effects of COVID-19.
All three of the current vaccine types have proven very effective in preventing serious illness requiring hospitalization and death, and it makes you less likely to catch or spread COVID-19.
Even if you are completely healthy, get the shot for those who are most vulnerable, and protect your community and the nation the way you did when you were in uniform.
It’s safe, it works, and it matters
VA is one of the largest vaccinators in the nation, with more than 5.7 million doses given to over 3 million Veterans, spouses, caregivers and staff. We have made it as easy as possible to receive this vaccine as supply has increased. We now offer walk-in clinics with no appointment necessary across the country, and Veterans can bring their spouses or caregivers with them.
If you have already been vaccinated, please tell your friends and those you served with that VA is here to vaccinate them today. You don’t even have to be enrolled in VA health care to receive the vaccine, but we are glad to check your eligibility and enroll you if you would like.
There are so many things that we haven’t been able to do in the last year and a half because of this virus. My family and I have been looking forward to seeing my 102-year old father in person for the first time in 18 months, and I know that many of you missed being able to see and hug your families.
What getting the vaccine means to them
We recently asked some of the leadership and members of the Veteran Service Organizations to tell us what getting the vaccine meant to them and what they are most looking forward to. I hope you will take a moment to watch these personal reflections (video above) and share them widely.
It’s going to take all of us to defeat this virus, and we can’t do it without you.
Please talk to your medical provider about getting vaccinated if you haven’t already and spread the word to those in your communities that VA is here for them when they are ready to get the shot.
Learn more and sign up at va.gov/covidvaccine.
Dr. Richard A. Stone is the Acting Under Secretary for Health.