The Department of Veterans Affairs has so far administered more than 1.3 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine. Dr. Jane Kim, who leads the vaccine rollout at the agency and serves as Chief Consultant for Preventative Medicine at the VA, joined “Government Matters” to discuss how the Department is getting vaccines to veterans.
“We are just thrilled that we’ve been able to vaccinate so many of our staff and veterans,” Kim said.
Kim said about a fourth of these vaccinations have gone to health care providers and staff at VA medical centers.
“The prioritization of the COVID vaccine is really needed, as we all know, because of the short supply of vaccines, as these vaccines initially launch and roll out,” she said. “We at VA aligned with [the Centers for Disease Control’s] criteria to put our personnel and our veterans who are living in long-term care facilities as top-priority.”
Kim said when distributing vaccines, the VA prioritized all essential employees at the agency, including front-desk staff, cafeteria workers and cleaning staff. 68% of essential employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs have received the vaccine.
She said the VA began planning for the vaccine rollout last fall and has stocked up on both specialized freezers and regular freezers at their medical facilities. She said planning for the rollout took place on both a national level and a local level.
“It was a lot of careful planning and attention to what was coming that led to our success,” Kim said.
She said she’s hopeful that as more options for the vaccine potentially become available (such as the one-dose vaccine from Johnson and Johnson that won’t need refrigeration) the country will move towards herd immunity.
“I saw that Dr. Fauci had talked about that timeline, to have a lot more vaccines available in April and even May, and I was just thrilled. In VA, we will definitely be looking forward to that,” she said. “I think as the whole U.S. supply increases, I anticipate VA supply will increase dramatically as well.”