Wednesday, February 17, 2021

VA's Complicated Vaccine Priority System Causes Disparities, Confusion


The Department of Veterans Affairs may be out ahead of many states and federal entities in vaccine administration, but the complexity of deciding who is eligible for the vaccine and when has still left many confused and frustrated.

So far, the VA has administered 1.26 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine; 305,197 veterans and employees had received both doses as of Monday.

To decide who has priority for the limited vaccine supply, the VA uses an algorithm to sift through its databases and prioritize veterans. But it also considers other factors, such as local availability of vaccine doses, clinical resources and requirements at each hospital or clinic, and the number of COVID-19 infections in an area.

VA officials say the approach has allowed the department to vaccinate a large number of individuals in a relatively short period of time.

Some veterans, however, say they don't understand why they haven't been contacted, despite being what they believe is considered "high risk."

"My husband, a Vietnam vet, has not been contacted to get the vaccine. ... He is 77 with health issues," said a veteran's spouse in the Dallas-Fort Worth area who asked that her name not be used because she wanted to keep her husband's identity private.

He eventually got an appointment through the City of Dallas, not the North Texas VA Health System, she said.

"He had to wait in a car in line for four hours in Dallas to get his vaccine. It was grueling," she added.

Others cited similar problems in other parts of the country.


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