Congressman Panetta Calls on Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, and CDC to Improve COVID Vaccine Access for Veterans
Today, Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-Carmel Valley) sent a letter to leadership of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calling on the agencies to expand COVID-19 vaccine dose allocations to VA clinics and facilities outside of major population centers. The request, directed to VA Acting Secretary Tran, HHS Acting Secretary Cochran, and CDC Director Walensky, seeks to significantly increase vaccine access and reduce travel time for the veterans.
“Currently, our local veterans have to travel to Palo Alto to receive the COVID-19 vaccine from the VA. Although I’m grateful that the VA provides the vaccine, the significant travel that our veterans must endure on multiple occasions to get the shots makes it difficult to access and at times inaccessible,” said Congressman Panetta. “I’m asking the VA, HHS, and the CDC to ensure the vaccine is equitably administered to all veterans by allocating doses to non-hub VA facilities, such as the Gourley Clinic in Marina. Such distribution would significantly increase vaccine access to veterans across the Central Coast and contribute to national efforts to defeat this pandemic.”
Read the full text of the letter here or below:
Dear Acting Secretary Tran, Acting Secretary Cochran, and Director Walensky:
I write to request the expansion of COVID-19 vaccination dose allocations to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) clinics and facilities outside major population centers. I commend your efforts to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to VA facilities across the United States. However, the application of the vaccine must be expanded in order to increase vaccine accessibility to rural populations, including the central coast of California.
I am concerned that veterans are unable to receive a COVID-19 vaccine due to their location and lack of access. My district is home to numerous individuals who have served our country and earned the honorable title of United States military veteran. Many of them depend on their nearest VA facility for healthcare needs, including the COVID-19 vaccine. Yet, local VA clinics have not received dose allocations and are unable to administer the vaccine.
One such clinic, the Major General William H. Gourley VA-DoD Outpatient Clinic (Gourley Clinic) located in Marina, California serves 80,000 veterans, of which well over 50% are in the at risk 75 years of age and above category, on the central coast of California. The Gourley Clinic is an ideal location for a vaccine distribution site not only for the local veterans, but also for veterans outside the area who are treated at the clinic due to its position between the major population hubs of San Francisco and Los Angeles. Unfortunately, the Gourley Clinic does not have any vaccine doses to administer nor the cold storage freezers required to possess certain vaccines. In order to receive the current two dose COVID-19 vaccine, veterans who normally go to the Gourley Clinic must travel hours to alternative sites on two separate occasions.
As you work to ensure that the COVID-19 vaccine is equitably administered to all veterans, I ask that you consider and implement a better way to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to rural, non-hub VA facilities, such as the Gourley Clinic. Such a plan would allow veterans in rural areas to
conveniently obtain the vaccine without the inconvenience of hours-long travel. That type of relief provided by the VA would significantly help our veterans access the vaccine that they deserve and contribute greatly to our nation’s efforts to defeat COVID-19.
Please know that I am eager and willing to work with you to ensure that all of our veterans in rural areas can more easily obtain the COVID-19 vaccine. Thank you for your consideration to remedy this issue, and I look forward to your timely response.
Member of Congress