It's the first time the agency has flown COVID-19 vaccine doses to a clinic
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- For the first time in the U.S., a Department of Veterans Affairs clinic has delivered COVID-19 vaccines by air. Destination: Bend.
The vaccine is only allowed to be on the road for four hours, due to the temperature it needs to be kept at. Because of potential driving delays through the mountains, the Portland and Bend clinics decided to coordinate a flight Friday that carried carry the 144 vaccine doses from Portland International Airport to Redmond.
Steve Moore, operations manager at the Bend VA Clinic, told NewsChannel 21 on Friday it was nice to make history, but nicer to get more veterans vaccinated.
“It is a milestone to be the first clinic in the United States through the VA to be able to transport the Pfizer vaccine through the air," Moore said. "What’s more important is that we are getting veterans vaccinated.”
Since Jan. 19, the clinic has been able to administer more than 400 first and second dose COVID-19 vaccines.
At that rate, Moore said it could take close to a year to vaccinate all 7,000 veterans the clinic serves in Central Oregon. Moore added that it's possible only about half of those veterans will actually want a vaccine, which would cut that timeline in half.
“Our hope would be that we are able to get people vaccinated within the next few months, but six months is probably realistically,” Moore said.
VA Portland expects to send about 144 doses per week of the Pfizer vaccine to Bend and, starting in March, about 600 doses per month of the Moderna vaccine. In Bend, VA Portland is currently contacting veterans 75 and older to vaccinate. As more veterans get the vaccine, the age groups will expand in the coming days.
Only enrolled veterans who receive care with VA Portland and who are in the eligible age groups for the vaccine are being contacted to schedule their vaccinations. If not enrolled for VA care, veterans are encouraged to check eligibility and enroll by calling the VA Health Eligibility Center at 1-877-222-VETS (8387). More eligibility information is here.
Go to www.portland.va.gov for updated information on local vaccination details as well as the national “COVID-19 vaccines at VA” website. Anyone can sign up on that main VA Portland web page to receive email updates where it says “CONNECT WITH VA PORTLAND HEALTH CARE SYSTEM.” Information will also be shared on the VA Portland Facebook page.
Veterans are asked to please not call the health care system for COVID vaccination scheduling or for updates. They are encouraged to communicate their questions or concerns about their care through their care teams, preferably through secure messaging via MyHealtheVet.