The VA has now administered more COVID-19 vaccines than 42 U.S. states


As he rolled up his sleeve to receive his first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, Veterans Affairs Department press secretary Terrence Hayes said he was delighted to receive a vaccine that would reduce the likelihood of him. brings the coronavirus home to his family. .

“My wife is a very asthmatic person, so I absolutely need to take every precaution to make sure she stays healthy,” Hayes said shortly after receiving the vaccine at the AV headquarters in Washington. DC.

Hayes, a retired army master sergeant, received one of the millions of doses the VA distributed on Tuesday. According to the department, 582,000 first doses and 44,000 second doses of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have been dispensed to veterans, while more than 401,000 doses have been administered to VA employees.

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Officials said another 1,200 were administered to staff from other federal agencies working with the AV.

Across the United States, about 32 million vaccines had been administered as of February 1, according to the New York Times compilations. The VA’s million-hit milestone puts it ahead of states such as North Carolina, New Jersey, and Washington; it administered more doses of the vaccine than the states of Oregon and Louisiana combined. To date, only eight US states have administered more doses of the vaccine. The state of Illinois, which has a population of 12.67 million according to the latest census, also administered its millionth dose of the vaccine on Tuesday.

The Department of Defense has administered around 500,000 vaccines to date, according to the Times.

Dr Richard Stone, Deputy Secretary of Health for the Veterans Health Administration, was among a dozen clinicians at VA headquarters in Washington, DC, administering the vaccine to essential construction workers this week.

Stone, a retired army medic, said he was pleased with the progress of delivery throughout the system nationwide, adding that the department is administering its weekly allocation of more than 108,000 doses “in three to three. four days”.

The VA has the capacity, he added, to deliver 600,000 doses per week.

“We have built a system ready to accommodate much larger quantities as manufacturers grow,” he said.

According to Stone, the vaccine acceptance rate among VA employees is between 80% and 83% – far higher than the 60% rate reported in December among the general population of the United States, according to a Pew survey Research Center.

One of the reasons VA employees are eager to get vaccinated, he said, is that the ministry has been “hit very hard.”

“We are providing health care and taking care of some fairly sick patients. The will to take the vaccine has been overwhelming,” Stone said.

Since the start of the epidemic, more than 209,000 VA patients have been diagnosed with COVID-19. About 9,200 have died, including 1,800 in January alone – the deadliest month yet for VA patients, surpassing the December record of around 1,700 people.

VA employees also succumbed to the virus: as of Tuesday, 121 had died.

The AV began delivering vaccines late last year, starting Dec. 14 with Margaret Klessens, 96, a World War II veteran who lives in a VA community living center in the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford, Massachusetts.

The VA distributes vaccines to more than 215 sites across the country, with plans to expand to other sites as vaccine stocks increase.

But officials said that until manufacturers increase shipments – and new vaccines become available, likely in March – “many facilities could temporarily run out of vaccines for short periods.”

In addition to announcing the millionth vaccine milestone, VA officials have started posting data on the number of veterans who have received a COVID-19 vaccine per facility – data that will be updated daily, according to the Acting VA Secretary Dat Tran.

At the end of January, the VA was in “Phase 1B” to administer COVID-19 vaccinations to veterans, including those who are 75 years of age or older, who are essential workers, have an under-health condition. patients in need of chemotherapy or dialysis, or are organ transplant recipients.

Stone said the vaccine has been shown to be safe for the vulnerable AV patient population: the department has recorded side effects in fewer than 30 patients who received the vaccine – mostly fainting or rapid heart rate and no hospitalization.

The VA contacted veterans eligible for vaccination to set up appointments; those who want more information can visit the VA COVID-19 vaccine webpage, visit their local facility’s website, or contact their doctor.

Hayes received the vaccine because he is considered a vital worker who frequently interacts with the public. He said he hopes his decision to get the vaccine will influence others – including members of his own family – to get it.

“My family in the South is very reluctant to take the vaccine for a variety of legitimate reasons, so I wanted to … help them understand that it is best to get the vaccine – not just to protect themselves but to protect their family and whoever they are. come into contact with, ”he said.

– Patricia Kime can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.

Related: Active-duty troops can help nationwide distribution of COVID-19 vaccine

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