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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane VA Medical Center ramps up vaccination of veterans 75 and older

UPDATED: Thu., Feb. 4, 2021

Veterans in the Inland Northwest should have more opportunities to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as Spokane’s VA medical center ramps up immunizations, beginning with patients 75 and older.

Staff from the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center are calling veterans directly to schedule appointments to receive the Moderna vaccine, spokesman Bret Bowers wrote in response to questions from The Spokesman-Review. Amid high demand for the limited vaccine doses available at the Spokane Arena and other sites, the VA’s effort could help inoculate some of those most vulnerable to the coronavirus in the community, though its capacity is also limited.

With more than 70% of the hospital’s roughly 1,500 employees having received at least one dose of the vaccine, the VA is now prioritizing its more than 6,700 patients 75 and older. As of Wednesday, Bowers said, Mann-Grandstaff had vaccinated 1,122 people and had attempted to reach 6,140 veterans to schedule vaccine appointments.

The vaccine doses available through the VA are counted separately from the limited allocations to each state, Bowers said.

While both Washington and Idaho have made COVID-19 vaccines available to anyone 65 and over, the federally run medical system is bound by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, Bowers said, and is working to vaccinate those at highest risk of serious complications from the virus.

The medical center began offering vaccinations Dec. 28, Bowers said, starting with staff and residents of the inpatient community living center. After initially administering about 25 shots per day, the pace of vaccinations has increased to more than 200 a day since Jan. 25, when Mann-Grandstaff expanded its on-site vaccination center.

At that rate, vaccinating every patient 75 and older would take approximately one month, but Bowers said the supply of vaccines is expected to increase and the VA is working to identify off-site locations to inoculate veterans more quickly. He said it was too early to say when those under 75 will be able to get vaccinated through the medical center.

“That is difficult to predict at this time,” Bowers said in an email, “but we are doing everything possible to deliver vaccine expeditiously to our Veterans.”

The vaccinations are taking place at the medical center in Spokane as well as outpatient clinics in Wenatchee and Coeur d’Alene, and a mobile vaccination unit in Libby, Montana, he said. Vaccinations are set to begin at the VA’s rural health clinic in Sandpoint on Feb. 16.

More than 28,000 veterans rely on Mann-Grandstaff and its clinics across the three states.

All vaccinations are by appointment only. Veterans will be scheduled for an initial shot and a second dose about 28 days later.

Nationwide, the Department of Veterans Affairs has administered more than 1 million doses of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, the department announced Tuesday. Of the VA’s 170 medical centers, Mann-Grandstaff ranks third-to-last in doses administered, according to data from the department.

The VA Medical Center has created a listen-only hotline at (509) 434-7979, which will be updated weekly, with information on which veterans currently qualify to schedule vaccination appointments.

Orion Donovan-Smith's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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