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COVID-19 vaccines at VA

We’re working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal partners to provide COVID-19 vaccines to Veterans and VA health care personnel. We know you have a lot of questions, and information is changing quickly. Please check back often for updates. We’ll continue to update this page as we have new information to offer.

Who can now get a COVID-19 vaccine at VA

We continue to offer COVID-19 vaccines to Veterans as quickly and safely as we can. We still have a limited amount of vaccines. So, we continue to follow our phased plan based on VA and CDC COVID-19 risk criteria. Our goal is always to do the most good for the most people.

Here’s the latest info on who can now get a COVID-19 vaccine at VA.

Veterans who already receive care at VA

Many VA health facilities now offer COVID-19 vaccines to Veterans who meet these 2 criteria:

  • The Veteran already receives care at VA, and
  • The Veteran is at least 75 years old or has health problems that increase risk for severe illness from COVID-19. We base risk on VA and CDC COVID-19 risk criteria.

Some facilities also now offer vaccines to more Veterans, including Veterans 65 years and older.

Please know that different facilities are at different phases of our vaccine plan. Facilities will continue to adjust their local plans based on these factors:

  • How much vaccine is currently available at the facility
  • The needs of the local facility and community
  • The number of Veterans in each risk group who want a vaccine
  • The strict requirements for how the facility must store and handle the vaccine

If you’re a Veteran who already receives care at VA, your facility will contact you when you can get a vaccine. To learn about your facility’s current plan, find the facility’s website. Once you're on the site, go to Health care services, then COVID-19 in the menu.

Some designated family caregivers

Some designated family caregivers may also be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine at VA. Vaccinating caregivers helps us support and protect Veterans. For a caregiver to be eligible for a vaccine, both of these must be true:

  • The caregiver must be enrolled in our Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC), and
  • The Veteran they care for must be currently eligible for a vaccine based on VA and CDC risk criteria. 

If you’re an eligible caregiver, we’ll tell you if you can get a vaccine when we invite the Veteran to get one. 

Here’s what you should know while you wait

  • Please wait for us to contact you about getting a COVID-19 vaccine. You don’t need to call us or come to a VA health facility to reserve or request a vaccine. Our staff will only provide vaccines to Veterans and caregivers who are currently eligible for one based on VA and CDC risk criteria. We’ll contact you when you’re eligible.
    Note: You’ll need to wait at least 14 days between getting a COVID-19 vaccine and any other vaccine.
  • Your VA health facility may invite you to get a COVID-19 vaccine at a large vaccination event or by appointment. You may receive an invite by phone, email, or text message. If you’re eligible and you want a vaccine, we encourage you to respond. But make sure the phone call, email, or text is really from VA before you provide any personal information or click on any links.
    Note: Text messages will always come from 53079. Emails will always come from a va.gov email address. 

If you have questions, here’s how to get the information you need:

How we created our phased COVID-19 vaccine plan

We based our phased COVID-19 vaccine plan on these criteria from CDC guidelines:

  • Risk of becoming infected with the virus
  • Risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19
  • Risk of spreading the virus to others
  • Risk of harm to society if essential workers, including health care personnel, are unable to work

We are following CDC guidelines for determining who is at high risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19. Factors that may influence the risk of severe illness include the following:

  • Age. The risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 increases with age.
  • Existing health problems. People with certain health problems (like diabetes, heart disease, or obesity) have a higher risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19.
  • Other factors that raise a person's risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19, such as living in a nursing home or other group living facility.

To learn more about people at increased risk, go to the CDC website.


Basic information about getting your vaccine at VA

As the supply of vaccine increases, we'll work with our care teams to let you know your options. It’s your choice if you want to get a vaccine or not. Your decision won’t affect your VA health care or any of your VA benefits in any way.

Where we’ll offer vaccines

The first 2 authorized COVID-19 vaccines require special storage and handling. Because of this, we have a limited supply of vaccines. Our VA facilities will provide vaccines to Veterans receiving VA health care who are most at risk.

When more vaccines are available, we’ll determine when we can provide vaccines through our community provider network.

Eligibility

When more vaccines become available, we plan to offer a free COVID-19 vaccine to all Veterans receiving VA health care who want one.

Your team will contact you when a vaccine is available to you. If you decide to get the vaccine, your team will help you schedule your appointments.  

If you’re not currently receiving health care through VA, find out if you're eligible and how to apply now.

Note: You’ll need to wait at least 14 days between getting a COVID-19 vaccine and any other vaccine.

Safety

The U.S. vaccine safety system ensures that all vaccines are as safe as possible. Safety is a top priority as federal partners work to make COVID-19 vaccines available.

Before the FDA authorizes a vaccine for use, they carefully review the available safety data and clinical trial results for that vaccine. To learn more about the safety of the 2 authorized COVID-19 vaccines, read the FDA fact sheets in English and other languages.

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine fact sheets:

Moderna COVID-19 vaccine fact sheets:

We’ll closely monitor everyone who gets a COVID-19 vaccine for reactions, side effects, or adverse events. An adverse event is an injury or harm that happens to someone after they receive a vaccine, which may or may not have been caused by the vaccine.

We’ll report this information in our vaccine monitoring and tracking system. This is the same system we use to monitor reactions to all vaccines, including those for the flu and shingles.

To get more information about COVID-19 vaccine safety in different languages, go to the CDC website:

Privacy

We’ll share the same information with the CDC that we share for other vaccines. This includes the following information:

  • Demographic information (like age, gender, race, and ethnicity) that helps the CDC understand which groups of people are receiving the vaccine
  • Adverse reactions to the vaccine

We won't share names or street addresses.


 

Questions you may have about COVID-19 vaccines

Vaccine research and FDA authorization

  • There is no cure for COVID-19 at this time. There are treatments for COVID-19, but the risk of severe illness and death are still high in certain groups of people.

    The FDA recently approved remdesivir as the first drug to treat COVID-19. Clinical studies have shown that remdesivir may reduce the risk of death and shorten the length of illness in some people with COVID-19.

  • Yes. The FDA has authorized 2 COVID-19 vaccines for public use. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for people who are at least 16 years old. The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for people who are at least 18 years old.

    To learn more, read the FDA fact sheets for these 2 vaccines:

    Federal, private, and academic partners continue to work to provide safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines as quickly as possible. The partnership for these efforts is called Operation Warp Speed. The partnership’s goal is to deliver hundreds of millions of doses of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines to people across the country. To learn more about Operation Warp Speed, read the Department of Health and Human Services fact sheet.

  • The FDA is the government agency that regulates all vaccines used in the U.S. It ensures organizations that develop vaccines follow strict scientific and regulatory processes. The FDA also reviews all of the laboratory and clinical trial data for each vaccine to make sure the vaccine is safe and effective before it can be used by the American public. This review process usually takes several years.

    During a public health emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA can issue an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). An EUA speeds up the FDA’s review process to get critical medical products such as vaccines to people as quickly as possible. The process still includes all the same important steps, but in a shorter period of time.

    After the FDA authorizes the product, they continue to monitor the product’s safety and effectiveness. This includes tracking any adverse reactions or side effects that people may report when using the product.

    To learn more about how the FDA and other government partners are speeding up the process to get COVID-19 vaccines to the public, go to the Operation Warp Speed Accelerated COVID-19 Vaccine Process infographic.

    To learn more about the EUA process in general, play this FDA video (YouTube).

  • Yes. As one of the nation’s leaders in health research, we continue to participate in research studies for new COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. These studies are also called clinical trials.

    We need research studies to help find more safe and effective ways to prevent and treat COVID-19. Because COVID-19 is so new, we still have a lot to learn.

    If you’d like, you can help in these efforts by signing up for our research volunteer list. If we think you may be eligible to be a participant in one of our research studies, we’ll contact you to tell you more about it. Then you can decide if you want to join.

    Anyone who is at least 18 years old can volunteer. You don’t have to be a Veteran or enrolled in VA health care. Your decision to join a study or not won’t affect any of your VA benefits or services in any way.

    Learn more about volunteering for coronavirus research at VA

  • Yes. Our effort to provide authorized COVID-19 vaccines to Veterans and VA health care personnel is completely separate from our participation in COVID-19 research studies.

    Here's what you need to know:

    • An authorized COVID-19 vaccine is one that the FDA has determined is safe and effective for public use. If you’re eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine at VA, you’ll get an authorized vaccine.
    • Research studies test new vaccines to help determine if they’re truly safe and effective. Research studies require special enrollment and consent. We’ll never give you a study vaccine unless you volunteer to join a study.

      If you do volunteer for a study, the study team will talk with you about all the details of the study before you join. They’ll explain all of the possible benefits and risks. And you can leave the study at any time. 

      Learn more about volunteering for coronavirus research at VA

How COVID-19 vaccines work

  • The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has caused severe illness and death around the world. This is, in part, because the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads easily from person to person.

    We have some treatments to help reduce the effects of COVID-19 but a vaccine that helps prevent people from becoming infected is the best way to slow or stop the spread of the virus.

  • Vaccines help train your body’s natural immune system to recognize and fight a specific disease by stimulating a response to the virus that causes that disease.

    When a virus is introduced to your body for the first time, your immune system mounts a defense. This includes making antibodies that help kill or neutralize the virus. If you’re exposed to the same virus again, these antibodies also help your immune system recognize and fight the virus quickly.

    To learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work, go to the CDC website.

  • Vaccines protect you and the people around you. Protecting whole communities from diseases like COVID-19 is an important reason for everyone to get vaccines. We call this “community immunity.”

    When enough people are vaccinated and develop immunity to a certain virus, that virus can’t spread as easily from person to person. This means that everyone in the community is less likely to get infected. Even if some people do still get infected, there’s less chance of an outbreak that causes many people in the community to get sick at the same time. This helps prevent issues like too many people needing care at once and not having enough hospital beds or health care providers.

    Data shows that some communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. These include Black, Hispanic, Native American, Pacific Islander, and Asian communities. Members of these communities can help protect their families and friends by getting vaccinated.

  • No. The authorized COVID-19 vaccines, and the vaccines still in development, use inactivated virus, pieces of the virus, or a gene from the virus. None of these can cause COVID-19.

    To learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work, go to the CDC website.

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine

  • If you're already receiving care at VA, your local VA health facility may contact you by phone, email, or text message. If you’re eligible and want to get a vaccine, we encourage you to respond.

    But before you provide any personal information or click on any links, be sure the call, email, or text is really from VA.

    • Text messages will always come from 53079.
    • Emails will always come from a va.gov email address.
    • If someone calls you from VA and you don’t recognize the phone number, ask for a number to call them back. Then call your local VA health facility to verify.

    Your facility may invite you to get a vaccine in different ways:

    • They may invite you to a large vaccination event, like a drive-thru clinic.
    • They may offer you a specific date and time to get a vaccine.
    • They may ask you to schedule an appointment.
  • Your health care provider can help you decide if it’s safe for you to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

    Before you get a vaccine, tell the provider giving you the vaccine about all your health conditions. Be sure to tell your provider if any of the below are true for you:

    • You have any allergies
    • You have a fever
    • You have a bleeding disorder or are on a blood thinner
    • You have a condition that weakens your immune system and makes you immunocompromised (like cancer, HIV, an organ transplant, or a genetic immune deficiency)
    • You’re taking a medicine that affects your immune system (like chemotherapy or corticosteroids)
    • You’re pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding
    • You’ve received another COVID-19 vaccine

    If you’ve had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredients in a COVID-19 vaccine, you shouldn’t get the COVID-19 vaccine.

    To learn more about what you should know before getting either of the 2 authorized vaccines, including a list of ingredients, read the FDA fact sheets:

    To learn more about COVID-19 vaccines and allergic reactions, go to the CDC website.

  • Data from clinical trials show that the 2 authorized COVID-19 vaccines are safe in people who've been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 in the past. If you're currently sick from COVID-19, you should wait until you've recovered, and you're finished with isolation to get a vaccine.

    For answers to more frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccines, go to the CDC website.

  • Not at this time. For the next several months, we won't have enough vaccines to allow you to choose which vaccine you’d like to receive. We will reassess as more vaccines become available.

    Both authorized vaccines require 2 doses to work. And you must get the same vaccine for both doses. To help ensure this, each VA health facility that offers COVID-19 vaccines will receive either the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccine. You’ll need to get both doses at the same facility.

    Over time, when more vaccines become available, we plan to offer a free COVID-19 vaccine to all Veterans enrolled in VA health care who want one.

  • No. You can’t get a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as the flu vaccine, shingles vaccine, or any other vaccine.

    We’ll follow CDC guidance on how far apart to space vaccines. You’ll need to wait at least 14 days between getting a COVID-19 vaccine and any other vaccine.

    For answers to more frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccines, go to the CDC website.

  • Yes. You can change your mind about getting a vaccine at any time.

    During this time, we have a limited supply of vaccines. If you change your mind, we simply ask that you contact your care team as soon as possible. This will allow us to offer the vaccine to another Veteran.

  • The number of doses you’ll need will depend on the specific COVID-19 vaccine.

    For each of these vaccines, you’ll need to get both shots for the vaccine to work. Get the second shot even if you have side effects after the first one, unless a health care provider tells you not to.

    Vaccine experts will need to continue studying the data to determine if and when people will need more vaccine doses to maintain protection from COVID-19.

    For answers to more frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccines, go to the CDC website.

  • Yes. 

    Both of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines have gone through the same safety reviews and both require 2 doses to be effective. You’ll need to get both doses of this vaccine at the same VA facility. If you need to move or travel, please plan for this when you make your first vaccine appointment.

  • Your employer or local public health officials may offer you a COVID-19 vaccine. It’s your choice where you’d like to go to get a vaccine.

    Please know that both of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines have gone through the same safety reviews and both require 2 doses to be effective. You’ll need to get both doses at the same location.

    If you decide to get a COVID-19 vaccine outside of VA, we encourage you to share this information with your VA health care team.

    You can send a picture of your vaccination record card to your VA provider through secure messaging.

    You can also add your vaccine information to your My HealtheVet health summary for your own records. To add your information, you’ll need a Premium My HealtheVet account. Learn more about managing your COVID-19 vaccine records online

After getting a COVID-19 vaccine

  • You may have some side effects after you get a COVID-19 vaccine. Side effects are normal signs that your body is building protection against COVID-19.

    These side effects may feel like the flu. They may even affect your ability to work or do other daily activities. But any side effects should go away in a few days.

    Some people have reported severe allergic reactions to a COVID-19 vaccine. When you get a COVID-19 vaccine at VA, we’ll closely monitor your reaction for either 15 or 30 minutes after your vaccine. We’ll also give you all the information you need about what to do if you experience any side effects.

    To learn more about what to expect after you get a COVID-19 vaccine, go to the CDC website.

    To learn more about the side effects reported for the 2 authorized vaccines, read the FDA fact sheets:

  • An effective vaccine will lower your risk of getting infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. If you do get infected, the vaccine may also lower your risk of severe illness. But no vaccine can prevent all infections. That’s why one goal of a COVID-19 vaccine is to make it harder for the virus to spread to others.

    Ongoing clinical trials showed these results for the 2 authorized vaccines:

    We’ll have more information about the long-term effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines after more clinical trials are complete.

  • We won’t know how long protection will last until we have more data on how well the authorized COVID-19 vaccines work.

    For answers to more frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccines, go to the CDC website.

  • No. Even if you receive a COVID-19 vaccine, you’ll still need to wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose when you’re in a VA facility. You’ll also need to follow other VA safety rules like practicing physical distancing. This helps protect you, other Veterans, and our staff.

For answers to more frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccines, go to the CDC website.

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