As vaccinations for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continue, we here at Task & Purpose have received questions from veterans and readers, and have seen a number of comments online, asking for details on where and how to get vaccinated through the Department of Veterans Affairs. So we decided to gather the relevant information in one spot, to make things a little easier for veterans to find out when, where, and how they can get vaccinated through the VA.
The department has “administered at least one dose of either the Pfizer BioNtech or Moderna vaccine to more than 464,000 veterans,” as of Jan. 27, agency spokesman Randal Noller told Task & Purpose.
The VA is focusing on “local flexibility” to ensure that “no vaccine is wasted as we work to vaccinate all our veterans and employees who want to be vaccinated as quickly as possible,” Noller said. “Veterans who are enrolled and receiving care in VA will be contacted by their care team when they are eligible for vaccination. Veterans should wait to hear from their care team before scheduling an appointment, and stay tuned to their local website for announcement of mass vaccination events in their area.”
Who can get a COVID-19 vaccine through the VA?
Nationwide on average, VA facilities are currently in Phase 1a and entering Phase 1b of vaccinations, Noller said.
Phase 1a refers to the vaccination of healthcare workers and first responders who might be at risk of contracting COVID-19, as well as older adults living in congregated or overcrowded housing. Generally, Phase 1b refers to those age 75 and over, according to CDC guidance.
“Veterans 75 years of age and older fall into Phase 1b, and facilities can start offering the vaccine to persons in 1b when they have made good progress through Phase 1a,” Noller said.
Additionally, the VA website explains that it is currently vaccinating the following groups at some VA facilities: VA healthcare personnel; veterans living in VA long-term care facilities; and those veterans who receive care through the VA and are deemed to be at high risk from COVID-19 based on the VA and CDC risk criteria.
“At many VA healthcare facilities, this group includes all veterans who are at least 75 years old,” reads the VA website. “Each facility will determine when veterans in this group can receive a vaccine. They’ll base this decision on vaccine availability, local needs, as well as the strict storage and handling requirements of the vaccines.”
To get specifics about vaccinations at your local VA health facility, you’ll need to go to your facility’s website — if you’re unsure of how to do that, you can use this VA facility location finder here. Once you’re on the facility website menu, go to “health care services,” and then go to “COVID-19.” Alternatively, you can send a secure message to your VA healthcare provider directly to find out if you’re in need of a vaccine, or eligible to get one at this time.
Additionally, the VA has a Frequently Asked Questions prompt specifically related to COVID-19 vaccinations, but if you can’t find your answers there, the department suggests calling its main information line at 1-800-698-2411 (TTY: 711).
Some designated family caregivers may also qualify for vaccines
According to the VA, family caregivers who are enrolled in the VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC) “are eligible for vaccination when the veteran they care for becomes eligible. If the veteran you care for meets the criteria above, both you and the veteran may be able to get vaccinated now. Vaccinating caregivers helps us support and protect veterans.”
Unsure whether you’re eligible or need more information?
Veterans can always ask their VA care provider about getting vaccinated. They can also sign up for the VA’s Keep Me Informed tool here, which will provide updates on how to get vaccinated in their area; and to stay up-to-date on the department’s handling of the vaccine rollout, veterans can check the VA website here.
More general information on the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccination efforts can also be found online through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
“Veterans may contact their care team for any questions they may have about the COVID-19 vaccine,” Noller told Task & Purpose, adding that the “VA has informed national [veteran service organizations] that vaccination is underway and have asked to engage with their local organizations to share the information. Locally, facilities are conducting outreach with local VSO to help them encourage veterans to get their vaccination.”
Update: This article has been updated with a phone number for the VA’s main information line, and with additional guidance on how to get information about how your local VA facility is handling COVID-19 vaccinations.