VA Central Western Mass. gives veteran first COVID-19 vaccine

Hampshire County

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LEEDS, Mass. (WWLP) – Shipments of the Moderna vaccine arrived in Massachusetts this week, and the VA facility has already vaccinated more than a hundred of their workers and residents.

The VA Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System location in Leeds is one of 113 VA centers in the United States to receive the Moderna supply. So far they’ve wasted no time getting the vaccine into the arms of their veterans and staff.

The Moderna vaccine is making its way across the country including 600 doses at the VA Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System in Leeds. Currently, the facility’s vaccination plan includes vaccinating veterans living in long-term care facilities, and high-risk VA health care personnel.

In total, the facility has 26 residents in long-term care and a total of 765 employees working on campus and remotely.

“Yesterday we administered 10 to in patient veterans and 20 to employees,” said Catherine Gaisson, associate nurse executive. “Today we already did 30 to employees and two of our veterans and later today we have 50 more scheduled.”

A military veteran from western Massachusetts was the first to receive a COVID-19 vaccine given by the VA Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System. Sites were identified based on the need for the vaccine according to CDC’s 1A prioritization and capacity to store the vaccine at -20C. 

U.S. Army Veteran Kevin James Bates, 68, has resided in the healthcare system’s Community Living Center for nearly two years, including during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Bates said his father and grandfather both were veterans who also received care through the facility.

“They haven’t been allowed to leave the unit often and if so it’s for medical appointments,” said Brent Bonfiglio, a nurse manager. “So this really feels like the beginning of the bright spot they’ve been looking for.”

Thirty-seven medical centers began offering the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to health care personnel and Veterans Dec 14. Fifteen additional VA facilities will receive an allocation of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine the week of December 21.

The Northampton location is only registered to receive the Moderna vaccine so as of now that’s the only vaccine they’ll be receiving shipments of.

As vaccines become available for more groups of Veterans, VA care teams will reach out to eligible Veterans to schedule vaccinations. There is no need to preregister or come to a facility to sign up.

Veterans can get up-to-date information on the VA’s VA COVID-19 vaccine webpage, and sign up to receive regular updates on the vaccine on the VA’s Stay Informed page. 

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