The Department of Veterans Affairs announced on Monday that it would require medical professionals to vaccinate within the next two months as coronavirus infections have more than doubled in medical facilities in the past month.
The Department of Veterans Affairs reported approximately 3,900 COVID infections between veterans and staff on Monday. 1,500 USA TODAY reviews were found in mid-June. Last week’s hospitalizations increased from 225 at the end of May to 345.
That number is increasing, far from the peak of about 18,000 cases reported by the Department of Veterans Affairs in January. In the past week alone, the Department of Veterans Affairs has reported 911 active infections and 73 deaths.
Veterans Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement Monday that mandating vaccines “is the best way to keep veterans safe, especially because Delta variants are widespread throughout the country.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs is the first major federal agency in need of vaccination. It is the second largest institution after the Pentagon.
The Florida VA Medical Center reported a surge in cases, and dozens more infections were found today in Vapine, Gainesville, Tampa, and Orlando, USA. Deaths are scattered, with at least two reported dead at 18 facilities, including Las Vegas in Houston and Fayetteville, North Carolina.
VA operates more than 1,200 medical facilities nationwide. Unvaccinated veterans currently account for 70% of COVID infections and 73% of hospitalizations, officials said.
According to VA data, about 300,000 employees (about 80%) are vaccinated. However, this also includes staff who are not involved in patient care, and the proportion varies widely from facility to facility. Earlier this month, VA staff confirmed that 85% of staff at the New Orleans facility had been vaccinated, compared to 59% in St. Cloud, Minnesota.
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“Whenever a veteran or VA employee steps into a VA facility, it’s worth knowing that we’ve done our best to protect them from COVID-19,” McDonough said. .. – That basic promise. ”
“I’m trying to destroy all the doors”
Jane Kim, a doctor and chief consultant for preventive medicine at the Department of Veterans Affairs, said in an interview last week that she has doubled her vaccination efforts to USA Today.
“More than ever, we’re really trying to break all the doors to convey the message that we want people who haven’t been vaccinated to consider vaccination,” Kim said. ..
According to VA data, more than half of the approximately 6 million veterans who rely on VA for medical purposes have been vaccinated. VA officials say some patients are believed to have been vaccinated elsewhere, but some are unknown. Nearly 60% of adults in the United States are fully vaccinated.
Veterans Affairs officials said about 10% of veterans, or 600,000, said they were “not interested” in shooting.
The Department of Veterans Affairs said in a statement announcing its employee vaccine obligations that four employees had died of COVID in recent weeks. All were unvaccinated.
“At least three of these employees have died as Delta variants become more prevalent,” the agency said. “There was also an outbreak between unvaccinated employees and trainees at the VA Law Enforcement Training Center. This is the third outbreak during a pandemic.”
Vaccine obligations apply to healthcare professionals, including doctors, registered nurses, and doctor assistants.
Kim said the Department of Veterans Affairs is giving employees paid leave if they submit evidence of vaccination.
“Vaccination continues to be an important strategy for keeping veterans and staff safe,” said Kim, as the number of cases increases.
“Political Mambo Jumbo”?
When the pandemic broke out last year, Melissa Vibes and her husband settled on a telecommuting routine, being cautious and safe. When the vaccine was first available, US Army veterans were not keen to accept what they considered a risk.
“There was exactly this real concern, what exactly are we working on? Is this being pushed too fast? My God. It’s like a huge political jumbo. “Is it?” Melissa Vibes said in an interview last week. “I think everything is very suspicious.”
Many veterans like them were skeptical of the vaccine, a VA discovered in March. VA found that 3 out of 10 people surveyed were unvaccinated. Most of them were unplanned or undecided.
The numbers were better than the December poll by the Blue Star family, which stated that almost half of the veteran families surveyed were not going to be vaccinated. A veteran’s spouse told pollsters that he objected to the family being “guinea pigs.”
However, Viveses has determined that vaccination will help stop the spread of the virus. They called the Department of Veterans Affairs, rolled up their sleeves, and were vaccinated at a pop-up clinic in Aurora, Colorado. By the end of April, both had shots.
“This is an area unknown to all of us,” Vives said. “But if there’s a vaccine that goes at least a little bit in the right direction, I’ll jump into it and do it to help.”
She and her husband are volunteers for Team Rubycon, a veterans organization that was part of the Biden administration’s extensive campaign to encourage vaccination in April. This group was one of 12 veterans’ organizations that were mentioned as “trustworthy voices”, such as the American Legion and the American Vietnam Veterans.
Disabled veterans participate in public service announcements and spread their messages on social media. AMVETS hosts a vaccine center in the post and a VA mobile vaccination clinic on an annual motorcycle.
Team Rubicon joined another group of Veterans Coalition for Vaccination, hosted a May forum on Facebook, and created a series of public service ads. Tell the vet that the vaccination effort is a “call to weapons-yours”. The organization helped distribute more than 1.6 million vaccines to 95 cities.
Team Rubicon CEO and Navy veteran Artdela Cruz said veterans could be the key to reaching herd immunity in the United States.
“We believe we can move the needle to the entire population if we can carry veterans and they become an example and messenger of vaccine trust and acceptance,” he said.
He said veterans come from the armed forces, a trusted institution, and understand the joint responsibility that one action is part of a unit that can protect or undermine the well-being of all. rice field.
“Discussion, resistance is at a peculiar level –’don’t trample me. Don’t tell me what to do,” said Delacruz.
But for veterans, “this is what we know how to do, this is what we understand,” he said. This is about us. “
Infectious disease expert Dr. Eileen Marty likens the vaccine to a stop sign or a red light. “Is it really a personal choice?” Asked Marty, a professor of medicine at Florida International University and a clinical consultant at the university’s highly complex COVID lab. “It’s not just about traffic tickets, it’s about the fact that you can kill someone.”
Marty said that unvaccinated people are a “risk for you and your family.” “Because he contributes to high-dose instant doses where the virus can propagate and develop into a new worst variant that can overwhelm your protection as a vaccinated person. “
Hundreds of thousands of veterans “take a pass”
The proportion of veterans vaccinated at Veterans Affairs facilities is steadily rising, reaching 21% in March, 36% in April and 42% in May. By July, the pace had slowed considerably. Inching from 49.5% to 51.5% in the last 3 weeks.
Kim, the chief consultant who leads the Department of Veterans Affairs’ vaccination campaign, said that in May and June, the headquarters examined patient lists at all medical centers and contacted all veterans whose vaccination status was unknown. He said he had asked him to get vaccinated if he had not been vaccinated. already.
“And if they decide to take a pass and don’t want to get vaccinated, let us know,” she said.
“If it was their choice, we recorded it in our system and said,’We respect it,'” she said. Please change your mind. “
With the exception of about 10% of patients who said they were not interested, Veterans Affairs officials said they were contacting Veterans and collecting information and documentation on vaccinations conducted outside the Veterans Affairs Department. I did. Kim said efforts are increasing in the light of the spread of variants, and the Department of Veterans Affairs calls on veterans across the country to shoot if not yet shot, and a letter telling them where they can shoot. Is being sent.
“There are still pockets for people we haven’t reached yet,” she said. And for the open people, Kim said her message was that the vaccine was safe, effective, and abundant.
“If you’re waiting for a vaccine, you’ll find vaccines everywhere in Virginia, and vaccines at local pharmacies and local clinics. It doesn’t matter where you are. Just make a decision and go ahead with the vaccine. Please get it, “she said. “It helps us all, helps you, helps your family.”
Vibes’ home in Colorado has a new sense of urgency as Delta variants rage in the neighborhood. According to Melissa Vibes, the entire family of six living next door was infected with the virus. Only one person was vaccinated. They all got sick – the vaccinated ones were mild and the others were serious.
One was admitted to the hospital for two months. He went home about three weeks ago, she said, and he’s still getting oxygen.
“He said,’Man, I don’t trust the doctor. I didn’t really trust the vaccine. But if I get the chance to get the vaccine, I can get it right away,” Vives said. Says.
Her husband wants people to have an incentive to overcome the distrust of the vaccine before suffering from illness or seeing their loved ones suffer and perhaps die.
“Then you hear them say, I wish I had been vaccinated,” said Eddie Vibes. “We are all okay and hope to deal with this together and fight this virus.”
Contribution: Associated Press
Vaccines are required by government agencies, doubling COVID infections at VA facilities
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