VA utilizes several ways to provide vaccines to as many Veterans as possible. Here are just a few of the many scenarios at VA medical centers across the country.

Before many people wake up each day, South Texas VA pharmacy staff are already busy at work, preparing hundreds of doses of the COVID-19 vaccination for the first of many COVID vaccination clinics.

This first clinic was designated for Veterans over the age of 75.

The army of volunteer staff was ready, covering all bases. Veterans were invited inside to stay warm and enjoy hot coffee, water and doughnuts. Staff set up the largest waiting room in its history, putting out 140 physically distanced chairs that stretched through multiple hallways.

The Experience Office valet and concierge staff whisked many Veterans from their vehicles to the front door to shield this group of senior Veterans from an unusually cold Texas morning.

Lois Matt (pictured above), an Air Force medevac nurse for 27 years, was grateful. “You all are so great here and this is very well run,” he said. In the holding area, Matt saw someone she recognized. She asked the man about his service and found out he was on a flight back to the states on one of the medevacs where she provided care.

Army Veteran Joe L. Knight was the first non-employee Veteran in the Pensacola, Florida, area to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.

San Antonio Veteran encourages fellow Veterans to come to VA

One Veteran, who said she appreciated the speed of the clinics, was Air Force Veteran Susanne Waylett. “I feel very blessed to get in today. During COVID-19 I have been cooking and baking for all of my neighbors who are all elderly, so I need to stay healthy for them.”

Waylett also jumped at the opportunity to challenge her fellow Veterans to take advantage of the clinics. “I encourage all of you to come to VA. The wait wasn’t very long, and the staff is wonderful, so get your vaccination and let’s keep San Antonio safe.”

She received hers at the Frank M. Tejeda Clinic where Primary Care Chief Nurse Nancy Bowen was orchestrating her volunteer staff of nurses to get the Veterans through the process as seamlessly as possible. With future clinics upcoming, the team is always looking to improve efficiency.

“We had a lot of feedback from the Veterans on how well they thought the process went,” Bowen said. “We continue to look for better workflow to make sure we are maintaining social distance and keeping everyone safe.”

Thawed the perfect amount

The clinic’s Chief of Pharmacy Peter Trang said that “The staff were ready to assist with Veteran movements, and because we had good communication among services and leadership, we were able to keep vaccinations moving all day. All I heard the whole day from Veterans and caregivers was how well we had managed the vaccination process. We received numerous compliments.”

The need for efficiency just doesn’t apply to Veterans. It also applies to the vaccine itself. Because of the prep time, there is a risk of doses going unused. Trang said they thawed the perfect amount and will use the rest of the vaccinations in the upcoming days to avoid any waste.

Korean War Veteran first Veteran to receive vaccine in Pensacola

Army Veteran Joe L. Knight, 87, who served in the Korean War and three tours in Vietnam, was the first non-employee Veteran in the Pensacola, Florida, area to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.

“It’s an honor to provide this Veteran – a service member whose call to duty spanned nearly thirty years – this vaccine,” said Alicia Miller, associate director of Outpatient Operations. “Mr. Knight fought in some of our country’s greatest conflicts and providing him the tools to continue his fight today against this unseen enemy represents what we are all about, providing care for those who have served their country.

“We first provided vaccinations to our front-line health care workers and our Veterans residing in our Community Living Center,” Miller continued. “Our health care workers were among the first to receive vaccinations because they are at high risk for contracting and spreading COVID-19 to other staff members and patients. Their health is critical to ensuring the continued care of our Veterans.”

Miller also stressed that Veterans interested in receiving the vaccine are encouraged to complete the Keep Me Informed Form, a VA initiative designed to capture Veterans’ interest in receiving the vaccine and an effort to keep Veterans informed of VA’s vaccination process.

Information from the form can assist a Veteran’s care team prepare for an eligible person’s vaccination.

Veterans can learn more about VA’s plan for COVID-19 vaccination at the VA Coronavirus Vaccine FAQs webpage.

Veterans who have questions about how COVID-19 affects their VA health and benefits should visit the Veteran Coronavirus FAQs.

Navy and Coast Guard Veteran Roy De La Garza receives his vaccination.

South Texas VA inoculates first Veteran with COVID-19 vaccine

Nurse Christine Salonga rolled up the sleeve of Navy and Coast Guard Veteran Roy De La Garza and administered the COVID-19 vaccine. He was the first patient at the San Antonio VA to receive it.

De La Garza is used to rolling up his sleeves, first enlisting and becoming a Navy electrician, then raising his hand again as a volunteer for this historical occasion.

De La Garza has been a resident at the hospitals’ Community Living Center for a year. He said he is ready for the toll of the coronavirus to be over, citing the many American lives lost.

Besides eradicating the virus, De La Garza has a personal reason to be vaccinated. That reason is his new baby great granddaughter, who he has only been able to see through a glass partition. This virus has also touched his family, infecting his daughter and another granddaughter.

Because of patient safety, CLC residents are not permitted to have direct contact with visitors, so the staff has come up with inventive ways to maintain contact and minimize isolation, like drive by visits, virtual meetings and Facebook portals.

Several units with high risk Veteran populations

South Texas VA hospital Director Christopher Sandles said that “It’s been a double-edged sword for us. The community living center, spinal cord injury unit and bone marrow transplant units have been high risk populations, and CLC residents have been kept physically isolated. We’ve done that for their physical protection.”

Emergency Department Chief Dr. Samuel Munro was the first employee vaccinated. His work in the emergency department puts him in the high-risk category, but that isn’t his only reason. “Even if I did not work in the ED, I would have elected to receive the COVID vaccination,” Munro said.

Being on the front line, he has seen the worst the coronavirus has brought onto the community.

“This disease tends to hit the folks that are more susceptible harder than anything else,” he said. “While it’s a bad illness, if you have chronic illnesses – hypertension, diabetes, other illnesses – it really knocks you down, and the long-term effects are devastating. I encourage everyone to get the vaccine.”

Director Sandles talked about how diligently staff have been working to roll out the vaccine but says it is well worth it because he believes the vaccine is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Roy De La Garza and his great granddaughter are counting on it.

ER registered nurse Pamela Makris was the first employee to receive the vaccine.

Salt Lake City nurse first to receive vaccine

It was a moment of hope when they needed it most.

After months of waiting, health care workers at the Salt Lake City VA received 2,200 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

ER Registered Nurse Pamela Makris was the first employee to receive the vaccine.

But for Makris, it was more than just a shot.

It means no more sorrow-filled shifts of Veterans suffering, no more changing in the garage out of fear of spreading the virus to her husband and children, and no more unneeded deaths.

Applause erupted from the small group of coworkers who witnessed the event.

“This is an epic moment for all our health care workers,” she said. “It has been a terrifying experience, but we’re moving forward and it’s almost done.”

Employees will work 12-hour shifts

“Our goal is to provide the COVID-19 vaccination to all Veterans and employees who want to be vaccinated,” Salt Lake City VA Director Shella Stovall said. “By vaccinating our high-risk personnel first, we can continue to care for our Veterans amid the pandemic.”

For Bruce Bilodeau, assistant chief pharmacy, the vaccine’s arrival was a relief.

“I’m very excited,” Bilodeau said. “It’s safe, it’s effective, and if we get enough people vaccinated, we can probably knock this thing right out.”

Employees will need to work 12 stations, logging 12-hour shifts to vaccinate VA’s goal of 200 people a day. But Bilodeau said protecting coworkers and Veterans was more than worth the effort.

For Makris, the vaccine means a return to normalcy.

“It’s a step forward to resume our life as we knew it before the vaccine,” he said. “And most importantly, to help the Veteran population.”

Throughout the medical center, there was a renewed energy – a certain feeling that employees hadn’t felt in a long time.

That feeling was hope.

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Published on Feb. 10, 2021

Estimated reading time is 8 min.

Views to date: 329


  1. Patrick McCauley February 19, 2021 at 2:56 pm

    It’s a complex effort and I’m glad to see our veterans being taken care of.

  2. Cornelius Brown February 15, 2021 at 3:49 am

    I am 83 years old,got tired of waiting for V.A. So got my first shot by local city health clinic,here in Berkeley California, got a text from V.A. Finally to get shots but are monevea, I have a Pfizer shot was told by V.A I would have to go 70 miles away to sacraments if I wanted 2nd shot from V. A. Out patient clinic in Oakland only ten minutes from me or hospital in San Francisco just 30 minutes why go to Sac 11/2 hour’s away?

  3. Dale Stone February 14, 2021 at 9:05 pm

    My 84 year old dad is still waiting for his first shot at the Pahrump, NV VA Clinic.

  4. Mary Ellen Troy February 14, 2021 at 3:03 pm

    I am a 66 year old veteran with hypertension & kidney
    disease. I live in CA where those over 65 can get the Covid vaccine. I’ve been trying to get an appointment outside the VA but I’m having a hell of a time doing it. When the hell are vets like me going to be eligible for vaccination? I’m sick of waiting!!!!!

  5. Russell Pinkett February 11, 2021 at 7:15 pm

    I am not 65, so not considered a senior citizen. I am 100 percent permanent and disabled with a host of underlying symptoms and still cannot get on the list for a COVID shot. Do i have to fie before I can get one? It’s a shame because they post a phone number in the Killeen Herald to call and no one ever answers the phone. You leave a message with your contact information and still 3 weeks later, no call.

  6. Carla J. Snider February 11, 2021 at 4:06 pm

    What’s going on at the VA in Denver? I keep reading 70 and older and Staff would get them first. That has been several months now. My health care workers have now gotten both shots.
    I am 100. percent Service Connected but am 61 do how much longer is this going to take?

  7. Leonard D Kelsey February 11, 2021 at 2:23 pm

    If you don’t want to wait for the VA to help you , contact Kroger . I had an appt. In 3 days .

  8. Bill Howard February 11, 2021 at 12:47 pm

    Caregivers in the VA Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC) are eligible for a vaccination when their Veteran becomes eligible.

    Some designated family caregivers may also be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine at VA. Vaccinating caregivers helps us support and protect Veterans. For a caregiver to be eligible for a vaccine, both of these must be true:

    The caregiver must be enrolled in our Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC), and
    The Veteran they care for must be currently eligible for a vaccine based on VA and CDC risk criteria.
    If you’re an eligible caregiver, we’ll tell you if you can get a vaccine when we invite the Veteran to get one.

  9. Jeffrey R. Fox February 11, 2021 at 11:49 am

    I have been on the waiting list for over a month.
    My VA has been offering vaccines for those over 75 for sometime. I am 73 and have Agent Orange related heart failure and am concerned about catching Covid before I get the shot. From the CDC guidelines it would appear to me that my VA in in the 1b group for administering the vaccine but I can”t get any information on when my age class (1c) will open up.
    Like many others I am frustrated and concerned.
    Any info would be appreciated.

  10. Bill Lemorande February 11, 2021 at 11:35 am

    I got my second pfizer yesterday.
    Well organized and they all make you feel special.
    Thanks to all from the President down.

  11. Henry Brantley February 11, 2021 at 11:24 am

    What really upsets me about getting the vaccine is people like OJ Simpson, Tom Hanks and wife, basketball and football players, college athletes are getting their inoculations before us veterans! We served, We sacrificed, We are true HEROES, and “yet” (We Are Denied.)

  12. Landrum Sellars February 11, 2021 at 11:13 am

    I am 100% disabled vet. I need to be vaccinated!!! I am in Phoenix area. Cannot get thru websights for shots, too complicated.

  13. Larry Kestler February 11, 2021 at 10:53 am

    I live in Polk County Texas, just north of Houston (80 miles away) but my primary Dr. is in Lufkin Texas (40 miles away) when will the Houston VA start administrating the vaccine? will the clinch in Lufkin Texas get an vaccines for the veterans that are assigned to them for there primary care? I am 74 years old with cancer?

  14. Steven Jones February 11, 2021 at 10:39 am

    Got a call Tuesday, Feb 9th, also a text message, also an email for scheduled shot atJames Haley center in Tampa, has been giving shots for the past 3 days in the Freedom parking lot. About a 2 hour 45 minute ordeal. But worth the wait. Vietnam veteran, 74 years old, Got the Moderna shot, go back in 30 days for second shot. Hope this helps. I guess you need to have used some of the medical services of the VA to be in the selection category.

  15. Philip E Paul February 11, 2021 at 10:36 am

    I was overwhelmed with gratitude when the Cambridge, MD VA Clinic called me and asked if I wanted to be Covid vaccinated. My spouse and I have been on 6 lists for almost 4 weeks when the call came in. They asked me if 2 days hence was alright and of course I would have driven over immediately. The process was wonderfully executed down to my never feeling the injection placed, no reactions ever and the follow up for the 2nd injection in 3 weeks is scheduled. Dr Ejaz, the clinic director, is an amazing man and has done a remarkable service to the veterans of the Eastern Shore of MD. Now I have to find an appropriate response for my spouse. Such response is very weak locally. We are both in our 80’s with compromised immune systems. It doesn’t seem to matter around here unless you’re in a congregate care facility.

  16. Charlres Beairsto February 11, 2021 at 8:00 am

    I’m not aloud to get the shot, because I am not at the age requirement. My biggest worry is that I could possibility get the virus when I go out in public and not noingly bring it back into the house, for which my wife could get it, and it eould be a deaf sentence for her, because she has renal failure and waiting for a transplant.

  17. Melanie Omer February 11, 2021 at 1:19 am

    When can St. Louis, MO expect vaccines?

  18. Sylvia Person February 11, 2021 at 12:45 am

    Will the VA get the new single shot Covid Vaccination from Johnson& Johnson? If I get vaccinated how do I make sure that’s the one I receive?

  19. Kurt Daniel King February 11, 2021 at 12:12 am

    Yes as far as I’m concerned the VA has dropped the ball on us. I have HIV, hypertention, and COPD. And were not even slated to get the inoculation. I quess if were dead. It would more cost efficient. This is a tragedy that we always take second place.

  20. Jack Wesley Dizon February 10, 2021 at 10:38 pm

    I’m a veteran and I go to the VA in Long Beach California. I’m so stressed out about this pandemic situation and the vaccines.
    It’s been awhile since they have been giving out vaccines at the VA where I go to the veterans over 75 years old… At the other various non VA vaccine sights, people over 65 years old can get vaccinations and I’m going to have a longer wait until I can get vaccinated.
    I’m going to have to sweat it out while others can get the shot and be safe! How long does it take to get to the next tiers?
    I understand that you are doing a good job and just desperately trying to get to everyone. I’m counting on you and you guys are the only thing that I can count on. You guys are giving people the best opportunity to be safe from the covid 19 virus. Still waiting patiently. Please be more considerate.


  21. Thomas Frederick MOSHER February 10, 2021 at 10:19 pm

    I am a Vietnam Vet Air Force I live in Iloilo. Philipines do you know where and how I can the Vaccine. 74 years old.

  22. Roger Thestrup February 10, 2021 at 9:51 pm

    Just a question for whom it may Concern;
    Why here in NY State, is it that we have to
    go to the VA hospital that in my case is 55 miles away from my home? When we have our VA Clinic
    Where our Primary Dr. is, just 2-4 miles away!
    Why can’t our local Clinic give the local veterans
    That are assigned to this VA Clinic our COVID-19
    Inoculations?? Since they allow Civilian Pharmacy’s
    To administer these inoculations? We Veterans in the
    Hudson Valley have another issue, I live in Ulster County and can only use Albany VA Hospital, but Castle Point VA is just across the river from me and closer than the Albany VA Hospital, but I can’t go there?? Why? In this day an age with computers, fax machines, Tele Visits they can’t do this?
    Albany V

  23. Dennis Farrell February 10, 2021 at 9:45 pm

    Don’t need cutsy stories.Stop the bull.I am a 74 year old vet with copd in citrus county fla. I have limited transport.Tell me where to go to get vaccinated and how to actually get it.

  24. Edward Gonzalez Jr. February 10, 2021 at 9:03 pm

    when will we be eligible for free dental and vision?

    • John Lawrence February 11, 2021 at 9:02 pm

      All enrolled Veterans are eligible for vision. Dental is disability associated.

  25. Jon Hamilton Smith February 10, 2021 at 7:21 pm

    I am wondering when the COVID is going to be available in the Tampa, FL area?

  26. Robin Cubbon February 10, 2021 at 7:20 pm

    does each va get their share of doses from the state they are in or directly from the federal government?

  27. Gene Frey February 10, 2021 at 7:04 pm

    The Villlages, FLA has the highest % of Veterans than any other city in the entire United States without a military base.
    Yet, they have zero vaccines. Why is that.? 76, and on a service connected disability, and calls and emails have
    gotten me NOWHERE.

  28. Fred Schmidt February 10, 2021 at 6:43 pm

    Is there a list of people over 65 and where they stand for getting the vaccine? I would like to know where I am on the list and an approximate time I will get the vaccine. I am registered at the C W Bill Young VA Medical center.

  29. Scott A Gaston February 10, 2021 at 5:13 pm

    I think that’s great that those in the most needy categories get vaccinated 1st. I do wonder though why at a rating of 100% Permanent and Total (for my heart alone) + SMC-S for greater than 60% additional Disability. In addition to the VA’s rated conditions, I also am in the second stage of COPD, have Diabetes type II, benign Hypertension and recently my Pulmonologist told me that Emphsyma had started to show up on my CAT SCANS . I have had Pneumonia twice. However, I am rated 1c just because I’m only 64?! I’m in fear every time I leave my house for specialists appointments every 90 days along with Labs every 90 days. I average 4 – 6 appointments monthly!

Comments are closed.

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