Expanded authority allows Dept. of Veterans Affairs to vaccinate all veterans, spouses, caregivers

Coronavirus
Oregon VA Hospital Administers COVID-19 Vaccine To Staff

PORTLAND, OR – DECEMBER 16: A healthcare worker displays a COVID-19 vaccine record card at the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center on December 16, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. The first rounds of Pfizer’s vaccine were administered in Oregon on Wednesday. (Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — With President Joe Biden’s signature of approval, the SAVE LIVES Act has expanded the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) legal authority to provide COVID-19 vaccines to all veterans.

According to a release, the legislation removed some of the legal limits on the medical care that the VA can provide to veterans based on health care eligibility and priority groups. Regardless of their VA health care enrollment status, all veterans, as well as their spouses, caregivers and some beneficiaries, will soon be able to receive the vaccine.

“The SAVE LIVES Act increases the number of individuals who are eligible to get lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines from VA from 9.5 million to more than 33 million,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said. “Meeting the task of vaccinating this expanded population will be a tremendous undertaking for the VA and will require a significant increase in our allocation of vaccine supply, but I am confident that VA’s workforce is up to the task.”

In Central Virginia, the VA Health Care System (CVHCS) is currently offering vaccines to veterans at four locations throughout the region. Veterans, caregivers and spouses are encouraged to sign up to receive the vaccine by clicking here.

The administration of the COVID-19 vaccine to veterans is dependent on vaccine supply.

“CVHCS wants to emphasize that our vaccination effort is dependent on available supply and our priority will continue to be our veterans,” CVHCS said in a statement to 8News. “When we begin scheduling for caregivers and spouses, they will be contacted by their closest VA facility by text message, email or phone about vaccination events, scheduling and other opportunities.”

As of March 24, VA has fully vaccinated 1,594,812 individuals throughout the U.S., including veterans, VA employees and federal partners, according to a release.

The bill requires the VA to prioritize the COVID-19 vaccination of veterans who are enrolled in the VA health care system, as well as veterans who fail to enroll but receive hospital care and medical services for specified disabilities in their first 12 months of separation from service, and caregivers accompanying such prioritized veterans.

According to a release, the VA currently receives approximately 200,000 single doses of the COVID-19 vaccine each week. Officials with the department estimate that it will need a minimum of 300,000 single doses weekly to offer the vaccine to an additional 3 million veterans who are enrolled but not currently using VA health care.

Veterans, their caregivers and spouses who qualify under the legislation and are interested in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine can click here to get more information about the VA’s vaccination efforts.

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