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Vaccinate NEPA: Efforts to get veterans vaccinated

Vaccinate NEPA

PLAINS TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — The services the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center provides to veterans has expanded to include administering the COVID-19 vaccine.

The VA began administering the COVID-19 vaccine in late December. The number of vets to receive it has remained fairly steady, so now the goal is to ramp up the numbers.

It was Christmas week when the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center began administering doses of the then just approved Moderna vaccine. Those shots to help prevent COVID-19 first went to staff and residents of the center’s Community Living Center nursing home facility. Eventually, the vaccinations included other veterans who qualified for them.

“We’re pretty much administering the vaccine within a week or so after receiving it so we’ve become very efficient, very focused on making sure that we’re getting as many people vaccinated as we possibly can,” said Russell Lloyd, director at Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center.

He says to date, that’s a little more than 8,300 shots, including second doses.

“And since it was available, I came and got it. That’s the whole COVID thing. It’s important,” said Veteran Floyd Nixon.

“Within the last couple of weeks, we received basically a month’s worth of vaccine that we administered in a week so our staff has really stepped up to the challenge,” said Lloyd.

Earlier, the challenge was having enough vaccines. The VA does not get it from the state but, instead, directly from the CDC. Lloyd says initially that meant only about 300 to 500 doses a week.

“And there’s been a lot of demand. A lot of our veterans are seeking the vaccine so early on we were kind of having to hold off and schedule into the future.”

Now, the goal is give the vaccine to even more veterans 65 and older, and those younger with underlying health conditions or with behavioral health risks like smoking.  

“We are scheduled to receive another 1,200 doses this week and almost 1,000 next week so we have vaccine available and those are first doses.”

Veterans enrolled at the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center and who are eligible for the vaccine can call a dedicated COVID clinic hotline at 570-830-7076 from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. 

For information on how to enroll, call 570-824-3521 option 4 or email-WilkesBarreEligibilityGroup@VA.gov.

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