Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Wed, Jan. 27

Vaccination program underway at Prescott VA, more than 500 administered

Prescott VA (Photo/Daily Courier)

Prescott VA (Photo/Daily Courier)

PRESCOTT, Ariz. - The Prescott VA is keeping pace with its fellow VA facilities across the state and nation, as well as with area hospitals, on COVID-19 vaccine distribution to medical personnel and vulnerable veteran patients.

In a news release, Northern Arizona Veteran Affairs Health Care System announced it started giving the federal Food and Drug Administration emergency authorized Moderna vaccines just three days before Christmas. The VA will continue to do so as doses arrive based on the state’s distribution priority list.

As of Monday, Jan. 4, the VA had administered 510 vaccines.

The first-tier priority is front line health and medical professionals, long-term care facility patients and providers – the VA operates an 85-bed convalescent and rehabilitation unit on its main campus off Highway 89 – and first responders. The state health department further identifies vulnerable adults with medical conditions living in congregate facilities that could also impact the VA’s population at its 120-bed domiciliary.

“NAVAHCS is eager to offer the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to health care personnel and veterans in the Community Living Center,” said Medical Center Director Jean Gurga. “Receiving the vaccine is like having hope delivered.”

As with other area health care leaders, Gurga’s hope is as the vaccine supply increases to ensure that all veterans and VA employees who wish to be vaccinated are able to do so.

NAVACHS is one of 113 VA Medical Centers across the country to receive the first limited supply of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. The facilities to receive the first doses were selected based on need and the ability to store the vaccine at suitable low temperatures – 20 degrees below zero.

As NAVAHCS serves an older population, leaders were certainly able to justify the need.

NAVACHS serves some 29,000 veterans across northern Arizona. On Monday, the Yavapai County Community Health Services (YCCHS) dashboard showed that the VA was three hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

Dignity Health-Yavapai Regional Medical Center now has 60 hospitalized patients on its west campus and 30 on the east campus.

Both the Moderna and Pfizer pharmaceutical company vaccines given emergency authorization through the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved between 94 and 95% effective in their clinical trials.

The vaccine is delivered in two doses. The second dose of the Moderna vaccine must be received within 28 days. In most facilities, scheduling of the second dose occurs at the time of the initial vaccination.

So far, the response of this area’s first vaccine recipients has been positive, with most reporting limited side effects ranging from soreness at the injection point to mild body aches and fatigue.

One such professional said she deemed the impact a positive because she knew the vaccine was working in her body and it was far better than suffering with the novel coronavirus that over the last year has caused so much grief and disruption.

National, state and local health leaders tout the vaccine as a “game changer” in fighting back against the contagious virus.

Yet VA officials and other health professionals are clear that until “herd immunity” occurs across the nation – and that will take time – people still need to take necessary health precautions. Face masks, handwashing and physical distancing are still advocated by all of these leaders as vaccines continue to roll out in priority areas.

Public vaccination for all is not expected to occur until spring or summer, even into next fall, officials said.

As vaccines become available for more veterans, the local VA care teams will reach out to those who are eligible given medical conditions or age – two of the factors cited for early vaccination priority – to schedule vaccinations, the news release said. There is no need to physically preregister for the vaccines, officials said.

The VA continues to limit visitors on campus.

Area veterans can get the latest information on the VA COVID-19 vaccine webpage, which launched on Dec. 11, 2020. Veterans can electronically sign up for regular updates through the VA’s “Stay Informed” page at https://www.va.gov/health-care/covid-19-vaccine/stay-informed.

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