Durham VA Health Care System
Durham VA Mass Vaccinations a Success
In February, the Durham VA Healthcare System (DVAHCS) held two mass vaccination events, administering doses of the Pfizer Vaccine to more than 6,000 Veterans. Despite initial long lines, many Veterans lauded the organization and professionalism of the DVAHCS staff and volunteers, as well as the short duration between initial appointment times, observation, and the return to their homes.
“I spent longer in the parking garage than I did waiting in line,” joked Preston Miller, an Operations Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom Army Veteran. “The coordination that went into this is amazing.”
With weeks in planning by the DVAHCS Office of Public Health and Epidemiology (OPHE), staff and Duke University Medical Student volunteers ensured a comfortable experience for Veterans. Veterans over the age of 65, with certain high-risk medical conditions such as diabetes, were prime candidates to receive the vaccine. Additionally, Veterans who fulfill roles as essential workers were also vaccinated.
“An event like this made sense,” said Dr. Chris Hostler, chief of the Office of Public Health and Epidemiology. “We had about 3000 first doses of the vaccine and we felt it best to vaccinate as many Veterans as we could in one go.”
Heavy promotion of the mass vaccination event ensured that plenty of Veterans would have the opportunity to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Initial lines looked daunting, but quick and coordinated work from staff enabled Veterans to move through the lines with few glitches. The events of the day went so smoothly that eligible Veterans, who did not have appointments, were able to take the timeslots of those that didn’t show up for their appointment times.
Much of the success of the event is due to great community partners such as Duke University’s School of Medicine.
“It was great experience,” said Danielle Rosenthal, a third-year Duke University medical student, “The Veterans were understandably eager and overall great patients to work with.”
For many aging Veterans, receiving the vaccine brought a sigh of relief and a reassurance that there are brighter days ahead. For other Veterans; many of whom travelled several hours for their first dose, the day had an equally significant meaning.
“In the two hours it took me to drive here, I had a lot of time to change my mind and turn around,” said Vietnam and Marine Corps Veteran Chris Casey. “But then I thought about my fellow African Americans, and Americans of all races who aren’t here now because of this virus, and it hardened my resolve.”
This is the first mass vaccination event held at the DVAHCS. Preparations are being made for more Veterans to be vaccinated
“Because of this, I’ll be able to have a measure of peace,” said Mr. Casey. “I’m extremely grateful to the doctors here at the VA and I can’t wait to take the next step.”
Veterans interested in receiving the COVID-19 Vaccine should call 919-286-0411 then press "0" to speak with the operator to schedule their appointment.
Veterans are required to be enrolled in VA Health Care System to be vaccinated, however Veterans do not have to receive care through the Durham VA Health Care System to be vaccinated in Durham.
Any eligible Veteran who has transportation to Durham can schedule an appointment. Criteria for the COVID-19 vaccine has been expanded to Veterans who are overweight or dealing with obesity and have a body mass index of 25 or more. Go here to check your body mass index.
See this link for other criteria for Veterans to receive the COVID-19 vaccine: https://www.durham.va.gov/services/covid-19-vaccines.asp
The Durham VA Health Care System currently serves nearly 70,000 Veterans at 10 sites of care within a 27-county catchment area in central and eastern North Carolina. Community Based Outpatient Clinics are operated in Morehead City, Greenville, Clayton, Durham and Raleigh as well as a free-standing Dialysis Unit in Raleigh.