COVID Vaccine for Veterans

Updated: November 4, 2022

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    The road toward getting a Covid-19 vaccine for veterans has been a long one. New legislation has expanded vaccine access for veterans and family members.

    As of Aug. 21, 2021, all veterans, their spouses and their caregivers, as well as CHAMPVA recipients, are now eligible to receive a  Covid-19 vaccine at their Department of Veterans Affairs health facility..

    This includes anyone who served in the U.S. military, including the U.S. National Guard, Reserves or Coast Guard. This also includes anyone who served in any of these roles:

    • Commissioned officer of the regular or Reserve Corp of the Public Health Service.
    • Commissioned officer of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (or Coast and Geodetic Survey).
    • Cadet at the U.S. Military, Air Force, or Coast Guard Academy.
    • Midshipman at the United States Naval Academy.

    This also includes Veterans who live or travel outside of the U.S. and are eligible for the VA Foreign Medical Program.

    Eligible adolescents ages 12-17 can also now get a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at VA facilities that provide this vaccine. 

    Adolescents are eligible if they meet either of these requirements:

    • They receive CHAMPVA benefits.
    • They help provide care or assistance to a veteran.

    Covid-19 Vaccinations For Veterans

    When 2020 began, there were no vaccines for Covid-19. Most people in America were unaware of the virus until sometime near the middle or end of the first quarter of 2020, but by the time the second quarter of the year rolled around, coronavirus had dominated world attention.

    So too, did talk of a vaccine. Coronavirus vaccine development went into overdrive as part of global efforts to speed up research, testing, and potential distribution of an approved medication for Covid-19. This push for a vaccine involved researchers and pharmaceutical companies in China, Russia, America, and many other countries and governments elsewhere.

    In the United States, the effort was dubbed Operation Warp Speed, and more than 170 countries have participated in some way toward efforts to find a vaccine, plan its distribution and implementation, etc.

    As research entered Stage Three trials for several possible vaccines, hopes began rising that the end to an unchecked global pandemic might be in sight. In the last quarter of 2020 news headlines were dominated by not one, but three possible vaccines entering the end of third-stage clinical trials with high effectiveness rates.

    The three major players were developed by:

    • AstraZeneca
    • Pfizer
    • Moderna

    Pfizer reached the finish line first; that company’s vaccine began distribution in America on Dec. 15, 2020.

     On Feb. 27, 2021, a Covid-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen  was also approved for use. 

    There was a temporary pause in use of the J&J/Janssen vaccine, because reports suggested an increased risk of a rare adverse event called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome in some people who got the vaccine. Most reports of this serious condition, which involves blood clots with low platelets, have been in adult women younger than 50 years old.

    A review of available data showed that the J&J/Janssen vaccine’s potential benefits outweigh the known and potential risks of the shot. However, women younger than age 50 should be aware of the rare, but increased risk, of this adverse event.  

    On Apr. 23, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended use of J&J/Janssen’s Covid-19 vaccine resume in the United States.

    Vaccine Side Effects

    All vaccines can result in adverse reactions in a certain percentage of the population. Adverse effects can be mild, such as prolonged expected symptoms from the inoculation (sore arms, fever, chills, nausea), but can range to the more extreme. That’s especially true for those who may have an allergic reaction to the vaccination, and any vaccination could cause allergic reactions in a certain percentage of patients.

    For the Covid-19 vaccination specifically, side effects may vary depending on a variety of factors including the overall health of the individual, medical sensitivities, or other issues but in general it is safe to anticipate side effects similar to the common flu vaccine including:

    • Fever.
    • Muscle aches.
    • Soreness at the injection site.
    • “Other flu-like symptoms.”

    Those who receive the vaccine may anticipate the potential to miss work or school because of the side effects, and veterans are reminded that no vaccine has a 100 percent efficacy rate. Some patients may still contract Covid-19, even if they get their shots.

    With that in mind, it’s important to heed the advice of theCDC, which reminds patients that even those who have contracted Covid-19 may benefit from a vaccination. The CDC’s current guidance also advises you should not worry about contracting the disease via the inoculation. The CDC adds that getting the vaccine will not make you test “false positive” for coronavirus.

    Contact your nearest VA facility to learn more about the current availability of a Covid vaccine for those in the VA health-care system.

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