The Northern Arizona VA Health Care System (NAVAHCS) in Prescott, AZ, serves more than 29,500 Veterans and employs more than 1,100 employees. When it came time to administer the COVID-19 vaccine, the Prescott VA staff stepped up to the challenge.

This included employees from the Incident Command Team, pharmacy, primary care, facilities management, supply chain management and information technology. Also, part of the team were health administration services, social work, public affairs, executive leadership and of course the amazing nurses and clinical staff.

The first week in January, they were able to reach rural Veterans located at geographically diverse Community Based Outpatient Clinics.

“Our COVID-19 vaccine clinic opened the week of Christmas 2020, the very day the vaccine arrived on station,” said Jean Gurga, NAVAHCS director. “This was possible due to the tremendous work from staff throughout all areas of our hospital. It took a lot of planning, preparing, and traveling to ensure our clinics were ready to receive and administer the vaccine. Our outstanding employees tirelessly worked to get the vaccine ready at each of our five clinics. Those clinics are in Anthem, Cottonwood, Flagstaff, Kingman, and Lake Havasu.”

Pictured above, Nurse Manager Denise Stearley shares an elbow bump with just vaccinated Veteran Thomas Lockhart.

Veteran Ernest Carrillo gives a thumbs up at the Mobile Vet Center.

“Communication was key throughout the entire process,” said Dr. James Johnson, the associate chief of staff for Education, Research & Development. “We held meetings with our team twice a week to ensure all of the required tasks were being completed in a timely manner and everyone knew their responsibilities. None of this would have been possible without the incredible team we have here. I am constantly amazed that even when pushed, the answer was always, ‘Okay we will get it done.’”

Hospital staff partnered with the Dr. Cameron K. McKinley Vet Center to set-up a Mobile Vaccination Clinic at the Cottonwood clinic.

“We used the Vet Center Mobile Vehicle and coordinated with our community to schedule Veterans and staff for their vaccines,” Johnson added. “It was a success and a great collaboration with our local Prescott Vet Center.”

20,000 Veterans vaccinated in four months

The past year has been a challenge for everyone. The Prescott team persevered with a great attitude going above and beyond every day.

“In just four months, our team had administered more than 20,000 vaccines to Veterans and staff,” said Gurga. “It isn’t over yet. Our team continues to work hard each day to achieve our goal of vaccinating all Veterans, spouses, caregivers and staff who wish to receive the vaccine.”


Mary Dillinger is a public affairs officer for the Northern Arizona VA Health Care System. Photos by Tim Howe, chief of Voluntary Service.

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Published on May. 20, 2021

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