Veterans and military members received answers to COVID-19 vaccine questions from senior medical and military leaders during a virtual session Feb. 4.

The forum covered a wide variety of questions about the vaccine, including the effectiveness, availability and length of protection.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, started the panel by addressing the sobering statistics. He said COVID-19, which has killed more than 430,000 Americans, is still killing more than 3,000 Americans a day.

“That is the sobering and sad news,” Fauci said. “But, the light at the end of the tunnel is the extraordinary success that we’ve had with the vaccine development program.”


Fauci said Americans have received more than 32 million vaccines from the two approved, with four more under development. While millions already received the vaccine, he said some still have questions whether to get the vaccine. He noted that the two vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech had more than 74,000 trials. Fauci cited the “extraordinary” 94-95% effective rate, then added that there were no cut corners or safety issues – two facts independently verified by scientists.

“That’s the reason why many of you hear me, every day in the media, saying when your turn comes up, please get vaccinated both for your own safety, for that of your family and that for the American community in general,” he said.

Fauci also answered a question about the length of effectiveness. Because vaccinations are still in the early stages, medical leaders are still gathering data on the effective length.

“We hope it’s longer than a year,” Fauci said.

Additional questions

The doctor also said that those with autoimmune disease often ask if they should receive the vaccine. He said that that’s even “more reason” to receive a vaccine – to prevent serious complications or death.

Fauci then addressed a question about how the messenger RNA vaccine works. Other vaccines put a weakened or inactivated germ into a person’s body. Messenger RNA vaccines teach human cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response. That immune response produces antibodies.

The RNA decays after a few days and does not enter a person’s DNA. The technology, he said, dates back over a decade.

Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman Ramón “CZ” Colón-López said he recently received his second dose of the vaccine.

“I’m glad to say that I had a sore arm that subsided within a day as the only side effect,” Colón-López said. “I credit much of that with staying healthy and fit.”

Veterans receiving vaccineCOVID-19 vaccine button

Dr. Richard Stone, the acting under secretary for health at the Veterans Health Administration, said receiving a COVID-19 vaccine was a “personal decision.” He advised Veterans to talk to their medical provider at their VA facility.

Stone said the immunocompromised are at a greater risk for COVID-19, including severe complications. He said VA is focusing on high-risk Veterans first.

“We’re prioritizing based on risk,” Stone said. He added that vaccine companies are ramping up production, which will greatly increase the number of Veterans who can receive the vaccine. He said the faster Veterans get vaccines, the faster Veterans can resume normal lives.

“None of us are going to be able to resume our lives and be able to get out and do the things we want to do until we get to the point of 60 or 70% of the American population immunized,” he said.

Stone also highlighted VA’s efforts, which includes administering over one million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to Veterans and VA health care workers. He also said designated family caregivers of Veterans participating in the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers can receive COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.

Blue Star Families and the American Red Cross hosted the event. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Place, director of the Defense Health Agency, also provided information during the forum.

More information

Read about a new rollout tool that notifies high-risk Vets when to expect their vaccine:

To get the latest updates and sign up to stay informed about COVID-19 vaccines, visit

View the VA COVID-19 Vaccination Distribution Plan:

Veterans who would like additional information can visit the VA COVID-19 vaccines webpage, visit their local facility’s website or contact their care team.

By Air Force Veteran Adam Stump is a member of VA's Digital Media Engagement team.

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Published on Feb. 5, 2021

Estimated reading time is 3.8 min.

Views to date: 448


  1. JEFF HAIRABEDIAN March 5, 2021 at 12:48 am

    I received the first of the two inoculations at the Long Beach VA here in California, I will continue safe distance, but just want to know if I am contagious after taking the vaccine?

  2. Jack R Denning February 13, 2021 at 8:15 pm

    Both my wife and I are 92, and I provide nearly all of her care.. I think she should be able to get her vaccination at the same time I do. I haven’t even been notified by the VA that I can get an appointment.

  3. Nicholas Troyan February 11, 2021 at 4:14 pm

    On the Tricare website it asks for your ZIP code, mine is 22310, when I entered it, the website stated that there are no military bases nearby. I am an 82 year old retired Army Veteran of 33 years of service. There are at least five military bases within 20 miles of my ZIP code: Ft. Belvoir Community Hospital approximately six miles from my home; Radar Clinic, Ft. Myer, VA, approximately 5 or 6 miles from my home; Walter Reed Medical Center in MD, approximately 15 miles from my home; Andrews Joint Air Force Base, MD approximately 15 miles from my home; Quantico Marine Corps Base approximately 15 miles from my home; Bolling Joint Air Force Base, MD, approximately 7-10 miles from my home. Tricare should be better organized to serve the retired community. All of the bases I listed above are known to those of us that have been stationed in the Capitol Area, certainly Tricare should have their addresses, phone numbers and especially information how to obtain COVID vaccines.

    [Editor: Tricare is a health care program administered by the Department of Defense. We are the Department of Veterans Affairs.]

  4. Benjamin Sims February 11, 2021 at 3:42 pm

    I am a 75 year old veteran. I live in the Netherlands. Where and how can I get a vaccine injection. I am 100% disabled Vietnam Veteran (with diabetes).

    Thank you in advance for your support.

    Benjamin Sims USAFR

    • JEFF HAIRABEDIAN March 5, 2021 at 1:09 am

      Take the next flight to John Wayne Airport in Southern Cali, the VA Hospital is five minutes away, go to the ER and you get fixed up and vaccinated. Need a place to crash for a couple days, look me up long as I can do the same at a place you know for a night or two before I tramp the countryside for a spell there in the Netherlands then fly back home. You can call the VA first to confirm (562) 826-5000 cheapest flight round trip under $200
      We just started the Veteran help a Veteran Club

      • Raw Ink March 5, 2021 at 1:43 am

        Nice gesture, but both unfair to other Vets waiting and unsafe for all party’s involved

  5. Michael I brooks February 11, 2021 at 11:21 am

    after the first shot, how long for the shot to take effect and is the second shot a booster

  6. Reggie Johnson February 11, 2021 at 9:47 am

    This expert says that we will not get back to normal until 60 to 70% of the population is immunized. It is disheartening that this is the gauge that they have chosen. As much as possible you should do your own research. Look to multiple sources (like the VA and your local doctors) and talk to friends, co-workers, and family who have actually had the Virus. As for getting one of the multiple vaccines, I do not have any plans on getting any of them. My brother is a Veteran who goes to the VA for his medical. There was some type of notice that they were giving one of the COVID vaccines and he just drove over and got it. A few questions and no fuss and no issues. He still has to get the second one.. He said that he has had no side affect from the first injection. I am glad he got the shot as he was sincerely nervous about the virus. I wish there was a way to give the vaccine, that might be meant for me, to a fellow veteran to ease their mind.

  7. John Paul Purdiak February 11, 2021 at 8:20 am

    I would like to know when it is expected to know if Vaccinated people will still spread Covid 19 or not spreading cover 19? What will be the method to determine if the vaccinated can still spread the disease?

    John Purdiak

  8. Patrick Kealey February 10, 2021 at 9:00 pm

    I was advised by my local VA clinic that after setting up an appointment to get covid-19 vaccine, that my wife was not included. She advised me my wife had to be a 50% supporter of my medical care. In this case, I am 50% supporter of her care. We are both 78 years old. While I fully understand the military position at hand of supporting military personnel as a priority, it would seem some flexibility be given to local clinics as needed, to offer consideration to include a spouse who is confronted with their own issues. So, since it is my responsibility to care for my wife, I will not get it from the VA and have her not. Consequently, I have to look elsewhere to secure her getting this vaccine 1 and 2. This is no big deal but I just wanted to bring it to the attention of those who make decisions in the future.

  9. Debi February 10, 2021 at 8:51 pm

    At some point, will there be a mandate that VA patients are required to be vaccinated in order to receive in-person services? While I personally hope it’s always a veteran’s choice, I’m curious as to what the VA’s plans are regarding this.

  10. Veterans Health Administration February 10, 2021 at 10:43 am

    Veterans enrolled in and eligible for VA health care can receive personalized COVID-19 vaccine information from VA in three different ways. Find that information here:

    For more details on your local VA health facility’s current plan, find your facility’s website. On the facility website menu, go to Health care services, then COVID-19.

  11. TERENCE T Myers February 9, 2021 at 12:20 pm

    I’m a Vietnam era veteran 75 years of age who can’t get a covid vaccine shot.

  12. Rosemarie February 7, 2021 at 11:33 am

    I know a 92 year old veteran that lives in NewburghNY and is unable to get his vaccine

Comments are closed.

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