Mar 19, 2021 - Health

All veterans, their spouses, caregivers will be eligible to get COVID-19 vaccines

Photo of a masked medical worker giving a vaccine jab to a person sitting down
Photo: Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Veterans, their spouses and caregivers will be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine through the Department of Veterans Affairs as soon as doses are available, according to newly finalized legislation.

Why it matters: The VA has counted more than 11,000 deaths and recorded more than 223,500 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, according to data from the medical system.

The state of play: President Biden is expected to sign the congressionally approved measure into law in the coming days, the Military Times reports.

  • Under existing rules, VA medical facilities can only give vaccines to those who are eligible for VA health services, as well as some caregivers registered in departmental support programs.
  • The number of people eligible for the vaccine through the VA currently hovers around 7 million. Under the new bill, that figure would jump to more than 20 million, per Military Times.
  • The bill would also allow veterans who are living abroad and enrolled in the VA's Foreign Medical Program to access the vaccine through the department.

The big picture: VA officials have cited concerns about supply challenges.

  • "When we have the supply to do it we will be in a position to really ramp that up," VA secretary Denis McDonough told CNN on Thursday.
  • Congress is expected to urge the Department of Health and Human Services to increase the VA's vaccine stock as much as the supply chain allows.
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