(Big Sandy, Mont.) – Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Ranking Member Jon Tester is leading the effort to ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is taking necessary steps to swiftly develop and release its own COVID-19 vaccine strategy to keep veterans and staff safe during the pandemic.
In a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie today, Tester led his committee colleagues in urging the Department to lay out its plan to allocate a coronavirus vaccine, reach veterans in rural and hotspot areas, combat vaccine misinformation, and strengthen cross-government and community partnerships.
“For COVID-19 vaccine distribution to succeed there must be a well-organized plan to meet the needs of all veterans and their providers,” the Senators wrote. “…Given all 50 states already had to submit their COVID-19 vaccine plans to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in mid-October and the CDC already released their COVID-19 Vaccine Program Interim Playbook on October 29, I am concerned VA is behind the curve. If the states and other Federal agencies have already publicly released their plans, why is VA lagging behind? When will VA’s COVID-19 vaccine plan be available and released to Congress and the public?”
Tester and his colleagues implored the VA to distribute the vaccine following guidance from public health experts and requested the Department’s strategy in allocating its initial doses among staff and vulnerable veterans to ensure those at highest risk receive the vaccine first.
The Senators continued, “Veterans and staff need to feel safe receiving any future COVID-19 vaccine, and this vaccine should be administered at no-cost to them. While the incoming Biden-Harris Administration is just a few months from taking office, the COVID-19 pandemic is still causing unprecedented sickness and death in our communities. Veterans and VA staff can’t afford to wait until January 20 for a COVID-19 vaccine plan. The Department needs to take action now to ensure the health and safety of veterans, staff, and their families during this pandemic.”
A copy of the Senators’ letter is available HERE.