Got Your Six’s Got Your COVID-19 Resources
Image courtesy of American Legion
In a recent report, The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently indicated that 1,943,728 individuals received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine through the VA—a number that includes an impressive 1,666,876 veterans nationwide since the first vaccination in December 2020.
Given the initial fluctuations in vaccine availability, evolving questions about product safety, what to expect before and after vaccination, and the phased priority approach to scheduling patient appointments, it may seem intuitive to assume that there would be a section of the public who are resistant to complying with recommendations to get vaccinated when their opportunities present.
But interestingly enough, the exact opposite may be true within the veteran and veteran family populations. Mark Overberg, Director of Army Retirement Services in Arlington, Virginia, anecdotally reports that the feedback he has received from retired soldiers, spouses, and other military members about the COVID-19 vaccine availability were generally “very positive and celebratory” and the reactions to their vaccination experiences were described as sighs of relief.
With the VA vaccination operations in full swing, Secretary Denis McDonough stated in his Mar. 4, 2021, White House press brief that he has been surprised that the expected “vaccine hesitancy” has been much less than expected. McDonough went on to say the demand for the vaccine among the veteran population has actually exceeded the supply.
Veteran compliance with COVID-19 vaccinations is encouraging. Yet, despite the upward trending compliance data, Secretary McDonough is progressing the VA vaccination program fully expecting an increase in vaccination hesitancy to be a challenge.
Fortunately, the VA and other government and non-government agencies including the Bob Woodruff Foundation (BWF) continue to bring resources to military service members, veterans, their families, and caregivers so veterans in any location have the information they need to make informed decisions about receiving the COVID-19 vaccination.
Last year, BWF released our original COVID-19 paper analyzing the impact the virus could have on the veteran community. The paper was completed very early on in the pandemic and was one of the first reviews of its kind at the time.
On February 4, 2021, BWF grantee Blue Star Families and the American Red Cross hosted “Military-Connected Families & the COVID-19 Vaccine: Part One” in its Homefront and Frontlines Town Hall Series. This forum featured First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, and Dr. Anthony Fauci to address questions related to vaccinations and preventing the spread of COVID-19. This not only provided the audience with accessible audio and visual resources, but it demonstrated the valuable partnered support for providing accurate and timely information on the topic tailored to our veteran population. The series, including the latest Part Two (March 4, 2021) is accessible at www.bluestarfam.org/hf-town-hall.
Other organizations and government agencies also have considerable resources to offer. The Defense Health Agency’s Health.mil website, which is the official website of the Military Health System, is providing a virtual COVID-19 toolkit. AARP has an entire section of its website dedicated to helping veterans 65 and older access information about the vaccine. The site provides vaccine locations in all 50 states.
The VA also provides robust online resources at va.gov. Visitors to the site can access user-friendly information including:
-Locations distributing the vaccine
-Vaccine safety information
-Possible side effects
-Answers to many other FAQs
The site also links to other community and national resources and has numerous printable COVID-related communication tools. These and other critical resources have been and continue to be a timely, transparent, and responsive means to connecting with our nation’s valued veteran population and a driving force in reducing the threat of COVID-19 through the responsible sharing of accurate information.
Dr. Paula Smith is a grateful mom, Retired Army Soldier, Veteran, and writer. She earned her Doctorate and master’s degrees in Physical Therapy, her undergraduate degree in Communications and numerous professional certificates for business development and management to include process improvement, project management and non-profit executive management. Her passions include leading, mentoring, laughing, keeping up with her three active kids and breathing in that energizing beach air at her home on Cape Cod. Paula also operates P.S. Get It Write! at www.psgetitwrite.com