The Department of Veterans Affairs has said it administered initial COVID-19 vaccines to over 5,000 veterans, and another 50,000 health care workers from Dec. 14 – 27.
The VA has about 400,000 personnel and most of those are in the health care branch, but it’s not exactly clear how many are included in the first 1A priority group for the vaccine (front-line health care workers and residents of nursing homes and similar facilities).
The VA began vaccinating veterans and frontline employees at 37 initial VA medical centers three weeks ago, following emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine (requires 2 doses, 21 days apart).
Those sites were selected based on their ability to store the Pfizer vaccine at ultra-cold temps and for their high operational capacity for vaccinations – since then the department has expanded the rollout to another 128 sites using both the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and one from Moderna that can be stored at around 40 deg F. for up to 30 days (requires 2 doses, 28 days apart).
DoD has received separate shipments and has also begun inoculating workers but the department has yet to put out numbers for initial rollout.
It remains unclear when all of those in the 1a category who want the vaccine will have received it, allowing the next phase, 1b, to begin, opening it up to all those age 75 and older plus “frontline essential workers” in fields other than health care. For the broader federal government, that’s a long list encompassing personnel in law enforcement, corrections, the Postal Service, food and agriculture, transit, education, child care – the list goes on.
The VA said that as vaccines become more widely available it will carry out plans to offer them to any veteran or employee who wants one, and at no cost (both vaccines require two shots).