WASHINGTON – Thirty-seven hospitals within the Department of Veterans Affairs have been selected to receive the first doses of the coronavirus vaccine, though VA officials are not confident that every veteran will have quick, easy access to the treatment.
The hospitals are mostly in areas with high veteran populations such as Washington D.C., Dallas, and Cleveland. Sites were chosen based on their ability to vaccinate large numbers of people, and most importantly, store vaccines in extremely cold temperatures, according to a statement from the department. The Pfizer vaccine must be frozen at 94 degrees below zero, a challenge for many hospitals across the country.
As of Friday, the VA reported nearly 17,629 active cases and 5,542 deaths among VA patients, as well as 79 employee deaths. Veterans are also a more vulnerable population to the virus being slightly more likely than the general population to be obese and have a compromised immune system from exposure to toxins such as Agent Orange and abusing substances such as alcohol, according to the VA. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said a compromised immune system and obesity are key risk factors to death and serious illness.
The VA hospital in Cleveland has the most active cases, with 565. On Tuesday, it became one of six VA hospitals that have reported 100 or more coronavirus deaths at their facilities, joining East Orange, N.J.; New York City; Harlingen, Texas; Minneapolis, and Columbia, S.C. At least 102 veterans have died in Cleveland, as of Friday afternoon, according to VA data.
The VA’s data on cases and deaths does not include all veterans in the United States, nor does it include the hundreds of deaths that have occurred at state-run veterans’ homes.
STEVE BEYNON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 11, 2020. “37 VA Hospitals to Get Agency’s First Doses of Coronavirus Vaccine.” Stars and Stripes, www.stripes.com/news/veterans/37-va-hospitals-to-get-agency-s-first-doses-of-coronavirus-vaccine-1.655037.