VA Offering COVID-19 Booster Shots to High-Risk Individuals
All veterans, spouses and caregivers remain eligible for initial dose
En español | The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is now offering a third-dose booster shot to certain groups of people with weakened immune systems who are already inoculated with the initial two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
Veterans, spouses, caregivers and some dependents who have not yet received their primary doses remain eligible for inoculation.
For both groups, walk-in or scheduled appointments are available. Those who choose to walk in should check the walk-in hours at their preferred facility before leaving home. Note that there may be a wait time while staff prepares the vaccine.
Also, be aware that anyone who enters a VA facility is still required to wear a mask and complete its COVID-19 screening. Individuals who are fully vaccinated will be notified by VA staff if it is safe to remove their mask during their visit.
Who can get a COVID-19 booster shot at the VA?
Those eligible for a booster should have received their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot at least six months ago. Older veterans who receive care through the VA, along with its employees, will be prioritized first, followed by those:
- 65 and older and residents in long-term care settings
- 50 to 64 with underlying medical conditions
- 18 to 49 with underlying medical conditions
- 18 to 64 who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of their occupation or institutional setting, based on their individual benefits and risks
Veterans who receive care through the VA may receive both the COVID-19 and flu vaccine at the same time, per advice by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“These booster doses are an important step forward in the fight against COVID-19,” said VA secretary Denis McDonough. “With the authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech booster for eligible individuals, VA can provide veterans an opportunity to maximize their protection, continuing our work to keep people safe and save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
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Who can get a COVID-19 vaccine at the VA?
The department is prioritizing the approximately 9.5 million veterans enrolled in the VA system, followed by:
- Veterans not enrolled in the VA system, including those without service-connected disabilities and who have incomes above the VA’s threshold
- Veterans overseas who rely on the Foreign Medical Program
- Veteran caregivers who are enrolled in the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers or the Program of General Caregiver Support Services
- Other caregivers of veterans who provide help with personal needs, shopping or transportation
- Participants in the VA's Civilian Health and Medical Programs for veteran spouses
Those who don’t receive care through the VA are encouraged to preregister online at least one hour before going to a walk-in clinic.
All who are interested in getting a shot from the VA should sign up here to receive updates on the vaccine distribution process and find out when they are eligible to make an appointment. Additional information is provided on the VA's COVID-19 vaccination page.
How to Get COVID-19 Updates From the VA
Veterans, spouses, caregivers and some dependents will be contacted when a vaccine is ready for them. Meanwhile, there are a variety of ways to stay updated and obtain the latest information on COVID-19 from the VA.
Sign up to receive periodic updates from the VA and to let representatives know that you want to get a COVID-19 vaccine. This helps the department better prepare its vaccine distribution plans.
Visit the VA’s coronavirus FAQ page for answers to routine and non-urgent questions.
Message the VA coronavirus chatbot to get answers to your questions about COVID-19, VA benefits and services.
Call 800-MyVA411 (800-698-2411) and press 8 to be connected to the VA Vaccine Hotline to ask questions about the vaccine or other coronavirus-related topics.
Note: VA call centers and health facilities are experiencing a high number of calls. To help prioritize the most urgent needs, the department asks veterans to use its online tools first.
Your VA facility may invite you to get a COVID-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination event or by appointment via phone call, email or text message. However, due to the rise of COVID-19 vaccination scams targeting veterans, make sure the communication is really from the VA before you provide any personal information or click on a link. (Text messages will always come from 53079 and emails from a va.gov email address.)
The VA is continuing to reach out to veterans who have not yet been inoculated. Without a booster, the COVID-19 vaccine makes recipients 10 times less likely to be hospitalized or die from the virus, according to the CDC.
Vaccinations completed so far
The VA has administered almost 8 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines at over 250 locations since its campaign to vaccinate the millions of veterans enrolled in its system began last Dec. 14.
As of May 11, the VA had fully vaccinated more than 3.5 million veterans and over 3.8 million individuals altogether, which accounts for VA employees and other federal partners. Approximately 98,000 veterans have already received a booster dose.
The number of doses administered to veterans at individual facilities is being updated on the VA COVID-19 Summary website.
At the start of the VA’s vaccination campaign, health care workers were selected to be among the first to be vaccinated because of their high risk of contracting and spreading the virus.
The VA uses a tool that identifies veterans based on age or underlying conditions. It also shows current disease treatments, including chemotherapy or dialysis, and other risk factors for severe cases of COVID-19, such as smoking or obesity. The department can then provide its medical facilities with a list of who should receive the vaccine first.
Meanwhile, veterans can sign up to get updated information through the VA’s Keep Me Informed tool.
Vaccination options for Tricare members
The Department of Defense is prioritizing the distribution of vaccines to those who provide direct medical care, maintain essential national security and installation functions, and deploy forces, as well as to those at the highest risk for developing severe illness from the virus.
Tricare beneficiaries can make an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine at a military hospital, clinic or vaccination site. Visit the COVID-19 DoD Vaccine Appointments page to see a list of locations and appointments available.
COVID-19 vaccinations can also be provided at:
- Local or state health department COVID-19 vaccination sites
- Your civilian provider
- East Region
- West Region
- U.S. Family Health Plan (USFHP)
- Pharmacies participating in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program
Tricare says that it is working to ensure beneficiaries have no out-of-pocket costs. Meanwhile, you can sign up for email alerts from Tricare here as more vaccine news becomes available.
Editor’s note: This article, originally published Dec. 11, 2020, has been updated with the latest information.