Augusta VA vaccinates 10,000 veterans and hopes to do more

Published: Mar. 4, 2021 at 11:37 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Just this week, the Augusta Veterans Affairs hospital completed its 10,000th COVID-19 vaccination. And an increase in supply and more flexible guidelines have allowed them to vaccinate Augusta’s vets at a much quicker pace.

“It’s been going fantastic we’ve been very excited about the vaccine supply that we’ve been able to, you know, maintain...”

The state of Georgia is prepping to expand vaccine eligibility on Monday to more essential workers, but the VA is one step ahead.

“The VA has been generous in allowing local sites to kind of cater the rollout to their veteran population,” Jennifer Blanchard, Augusta VA chief of pharmacy, said.

“We actually have a fairly young population enrolled here at the Charlie Norwood VA. So being able to capture some of our other groups, different than what the state is mandating has given us that opportunity to get to more veterans faster.”

The VA gives out about 2,500 doses a week through its two clinics.

They follow CDC and national Veteran Affairs guidelines, which means their vaccine phases look different than other local hospitals.

“We’re still utilizing different age groups but also looking at existing disease states, other conditions. So, we really are just trying to reach as many veterans as possible that have an interest,” Blanchard said.

Right now, they’re targeting vets age 55 and older, or vets with high risks conditions.

But if you’re a vet outside of that target group, you can still get vaccinated based on supply.

“.Our supply actually doubled in the past week and they anticipate that in the next three to four weeks, we’ll see an even bigger increase...,” Blanchard said.

“We can surge up to about 800 right now, per day, in theory, right now, our peak that we’ve been seeing is 500, just at this site [the uptown site] alone,” said Lt. Robert McMinn, VA uptown clinic manager.

They hope to have Augusta’s entire veteran population vaccinated by mid-summer.

The VA says their most efficient way of reaching targeted veterans is through their Vet-Text program. When spots are open, they just shoot them a text on the phone and they can schedule an appointment for vaccination.

Veterans eligible to receive their care at Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center can make a COVID-19 vaccination appointment by calling the mainline at 706-733-0188, and use extensions 3632, 3634, or 3265.

Also, if a veteran recently received a text about vaccinations from the Augusta VA, they can simply reply to the message with a date and time they are available.

Some VA hospitals across the country have already received the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine. Augusta’s VA has not just yet but they say when they do, it will give them more flexibility to reach populations like our homeless vets.

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