VA Sierra Pacific Network (VISN 21)
Hundreds of Veterans receive a dose of hope
Before going to bed on Jan. 29, U.S. Air Force Veteran Ann Elizabeth Martin-Stubbs prayed for an answer. Because she was worried not enough research had been done on the COVID-19 vaccines, she was hesitant about getting one and even discouraged others. But when she woke up the next morning, she went to the Sacramento VA Medical Center and received her first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
Martin-Stubbs was one of the 715 Veterans and caregivers who received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Sacramento VA Medical Center’s first mass vaccination clinic on Jan. 30. As of Feb. 2, the VA Northern California Health Care System (VANCHCS) has given 13,617 doses to Veterans, caregivers, and VA employees and volunteers. The VANCHCS received its first shipment of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in late December and has been working non-stop to vaccinate VA employees and some of the highest-risk patients.
“I now feel relieved”
As an African American Veteran and caregiver for her 92-year-old father, who retired after serving 22 years in the Air Force, Martin-Stubbs said she was cautious at first about receiving a vaccine because of experiments like the Tuskegee study.
“Even though we have our doubts as a race about being guinea pigs, I’m glad I did it,” she said. “I was expecting to get a vaccine sometime in the summer. I now feel relieved and more confident about getting on an airplane. This was a wonderful experience.”
For the last 10 months, Martin-Stubbs has been living in fear of becoming infected with COVID-19 and passing it to her father. Neither of them has had much contact with others outside of their household. After doing some research, she decided to give it a shot. She’s now looking forward to going to her daughter’s wedding and grandchild’s graduation later this year.
“Get the shot!”
Martin-Stubbs wasn’t the only Veteran who felt some relief at Saturday’s event.
“It’s good to know I’ve been inoculated against the virus,” said Maximo Nisperos, U.S. Army Veteran. “I was happy I could get the vaccine so soon. If you’re older or have underlying health conditions, get the shot.”
The McClellan VA Clinic was the first site at the VANCHCS to hold a mass vaccination event. On Jan. 9 and 23, the clinic gave out 142 and 353 doses to Veterans, respectively. Because of the positive response from Veterans, more mass vaccination events are being planned.
“I’ve heard so many positive comments from the Veterans here today,” said Dr. Kimberly Carney, VANCHCS deputy associate director for patient care services and one of the organizers of the event in Sacramento. “This pandemic has been hard on so many of our Veterans, their families and our employees. If more people get a vaccine, wear masks in public and maintain physical distance, we can get to a better place. If you’re a Veteran who meets the criteria for a vaccine, send us a secure message or call us to learn about scheduling your appointment.”
How Veterans can receive a COVID-19 vaccine from the VANCHCS
VA’s goal is to offer the COVID-19 vaccine to all eligible Veterans who choose to be vaccinated. Following CDC guidance, VANCHCS is currently offering vaccines to some of our highest-risk patients, including Veterans:
- residing in our Center for Rehabilitation and Extended Care
- age 65 and older
- on hemodialysis or chemotherapy
- organ transplant recipients
- with a diagnosis of ALS
- who are homeless.
Currently, COVID-19 vaccinations are available by appointment only. Veterans who receive their care at VA and fall in one of the groups listed above are being contacted and offered an appointment to receive a vaccine. If you have not been contacted and are in one of the categories listed above, learn how you can contact us to request an appointment: https://www.northerncalifornia.va.gov/services/covid-19-vaccines.asp.
If you’re a Veteran who is not enrolled in VA health care, find out if you’re eligible and apply for VA health care at https://www.va.gov/health-care/how-to-apply/. Once enrolled, you can request an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine.
If you’re a Veteran who already receives care at VA and do not fall in one of the eligible groups listed above, please do NOT call VANCHCS to inquire about vaccinations at this time. Our phone operators and call centers are doing their best to schedule eligible Veterans and are being overwhelmed with calls about the vaccine. We request your patience and understanding as we work our way through the high-risk priority groups first.
In the meantime, please sign up to receive updates and express your interest in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine at www.va.gov/health-care/covid-19-vaccine/stay-informed. This is the best way to let us know you’re interested in receiving a vaccine once you become eligible.
For more information on COVID-19 vaccines at VA NorCal, please visit https://www.northerncalifornia.va.gov/services/covid-19-vaccines.asp.