As nationwide inoculations against the Coronavirus are expanding following the approval of a second vaccine, the VA has announced an expansion of its in-house program but questions are arising in other agencies regarding availability their employees in vulnerable positions.
The VA last week started inoculations at some three dozen locations, focusing first on employees and residents of community living center and spinal cord units, and this week announced expansion to nearly another 130 sites. That expansion became possible because the second vaccine requires storage at only standard freezing temperatures in contrast to the extremely low temperatures—and special equipment required to achieve them—of the first.
“As vaccine supplies increase, VA’s ultimate goal is to offer COVID-19 vaccinations to all veterans and employees who want to be vaccinated,” the agency said.
The Defense Department is handling much of the distribution nationwide and meanwhile is administering inoculations to some of its civilian and military personnel based on a similar priority system with front-line medical personnel first in line.
However, the picture is less clear regarding several other federal agencies for which direct allocations were approved, including the Bureau of Prisons and the Indian Health Service.
Also, concerns have arisen regarding the TSA, which is not on that list but which has tens of thousands of federal employees coming into face-to-face contact daily with members of the public.
The head of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Mass., has called on TSA’s parent agency DHS to do more to protect employees, saying it is failing to take basic steps such as testing employees traveling for official business. In a letter to the department, he also cited news reports that absent a direct allocation, agency officials have been beseeching local authorities to give priority to TSA employees in their areas even though they do not appear on those priority lists.