(Military Times) Department of Veterans Affairs officials will expand coronavirus vaccine distribution to 128 additional sites this week, nearly quadrupling the locations where staff and veterans can receive the long-awaited immunization.
Previously, only 37 VA medical centers were offering the vaccine, because of logistical limitations related to the medication. The first vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration, manufactured by Pfizer, required supercooled refrigeration to remain viable, limiting the sites where VA could store and use it.
Fifteen more sites are expected to be added to that list this week, as new refrigeration equipment is delivered and installed.
A second vaccine, produced by Moderna and authorized by FDA officials in recent days, does not require those same storage requirements. In a statement, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said that means officials can reach more areas — and people — in coming days.
“We continue to implement our COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan and are grateful to be one step closer to seeing the end of this pandemic,” he said.
VA officials have not publicly released any data on infection rates or patient deaths due to the pandemic in the past 10 days. In the latest update, medical staff across the country were tracking nearly 18,000 patients with active cases of coronavirus, and more than 5,500 deaths related to virus complications.
Under current VA plans, health care personnel, community living center residents and spinal cord unit patients will be the first to receive vaccinations. Officials said that as supplies increase “VA’s ultimate goal is to offer COVID-19 vaccinations to all veterans and employees who want to be vaccinated.”
But that could take a while.
Earlier this month, Richard Stone — the executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration — told Senate lawmakers that about 73,000 doses would be available in the first wave of vaccinations. That’s enough to cover about 36,500 individuals, since the vaccine is a two-dose regimen.
He also warned it will be “a long process” to get the 7-million-plus vaccinations the department has estimated it will need to cover all interested, eligible individuals.
Indianapolis VA Medical Center (Moderna)
Marion VA Medical Center (Moderna)
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