The move is the result of a coalition of veterans groups that lobbied for the caregivers to be sent to the top of the vaccine list, arguing that they deserved to be included in the first wave of medical professionals being protected against the deadly illness, says Military Times’ recent article titled “Tens of thousands of veteran caregivers now eligible for the coronavirus vaccine through VA.”
Dr. Richard Stone, executive in charge of the VA, released a memo stating that those registered with the department’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers can be given the vaccine “in a coordinated manner with the veterans for whom they provide care.”
More than 6,700 VA patients have died from COVID-19 complications in the last 10 months. Stone’s memo states that decisions will be made “in balance with site-specific resources, needs, vaccine availability, hesitancy to accept the vaccine, and status of the pandemic locally.”
In an interview with Military Times, Stone commented that he is shifting many of those vaccination decisions to local officials to give coverage to more individuals.
“We need to leave it up to people at the bedsides, to make sure they are making the best decisions for veterans,” he said. “When someone brings a veteran in to give them the vaccine, they can easily identify what the other needs are.”
Roughly 20,000 veterans are registered in the caregiver program at the Department of Veterans Affairs. This program provides monthly stipends and other support to individuals providing regular medical assistance to infirm veterans. The data shows that the majority of this group are family members of post-9/11 veterans. The caregiver assistance program was expanded last fall to veterans who served before May 1975.
Recently, a coalition of veteran groups, including The Independence Fund, Military Order of the Purple Heart, and the Non-Commissioned Officers Association, sent a letter to Federal Emergency Management Agency officials asking them to authorize the VA to administer the caregiver vaccines under its role as the lead coordinator of federal response to the pandemic.
Dr. Stone said as of January 13, VA officials had administered the first dose of the two-part vaccine to more than 332,000 department health care employees and veterans at high-risk of contracting coronavirus. Another 45,000 individuals have already received their second dose. The vaccine has been sent to nearly 200 department facilities. However, officials have warned that it could be months before they can administer the more than 7 million vaccines they expect to be requested by veterans and staff.
Reference: Military Times (Jan. 14, 2021) “Tens of thousands of veteran caregivers now eligible for the coronavirus vaccine through VA”