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News about coronavirus in Florida and around the world is constantly emerging. It's hard to stay on top of it all but Health News Florida and WUSF can help. Our responsibility at WUSF News is to keep you informed, and to help discern what’s important for your family as you make what could be life-saving decisions.

Tampa VA Offers Coronavirus Vaccines To Veterans 75+

Close-up of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine vials
istock
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The hospital says everyone in its top priority category who wanted a vaccine has received their first dose, so it's opening up appointments to the next phase of veterans.

The hospital is offering the vaccine at its main facility and several outpatient clinics. Veterans aged 75 and older as well as some outside that age group can now sign up.

The James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital is expanding its coronavirus vaccination efforts in the community.

Veterans who get care from the VA and are aged 75 and older can now schedule appointments to receive the vaccine at the main hospital, its Primary Care Annex in Tampa and outpatient clinics in South Hillsborough and New Port Richey.

Homeless veterans, as well as vets living in VA congregate living areas and patients receiving chemotherapy, hemodialysis or organ transplants are also able to get vaccines at this time.

Hospital officials estimate there are more than 20,000 veterans in the region who now qualify. Staff are reaching out directly via phone, text, email and postal mail to schedule appointments.

“We’ve got a way to go,” David VanMeter, acting director of the Tampa VA, said during a press call about vaccine rollout on Monday hosted by U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor. “Our number one job right now is getting vaccines in the arms of our veterans.”

The facility is following a phased plan developed in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Veterans Health Administration guidelines. This is different from plans issued in the state of Florida, where seniors 65 and older are currently able to sign up for vaccines at other locations in the community.

The hospital received doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines on Dec. 21 and began vaccinating thousands of health care personnel and residents of its Community Living Center and Spinal Cord Injury Center.

Officials say they have vaccinated everyone in those groups who wished to receive them and are now administering the second doses to those initial groups.

While vets and their families can expect to hear from the VA about scheduling appointments, staff are also encouraging them to be proactive and reach out to their primary care providers if they are interested or have questions.

Appointments are required, as supplies are limited.

Officials caution this will take time and are asking veterans for patience. They say as soon as more vaccine becomes available, the hospital will expand offerings to include more veterans.

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