Veterans line up to get COVID-19 vaccines at the Columbia VA

Updated: Jan. 14, 2021 at 12:00 AM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - In just a few week’s time, leaders at the Columbia VA Healthcare System say they have been able to vaccinate 100% of their nursing home residents.

This week, they opened up vaccinations to veterans out in the community.

Our veterans have already served. Prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice. Now, they’re fighting the battle against COVID-19 by getting vaccinated early against the virus.

Navy veteran Malachi Mack received his first dosage of the Moderna vaccine on Wednesday at the Columbia VA Healthcare System. After his 15 minute observation period following the shot, he said he had no complaints.

“I feel great,” Mack said. “There was no discomfort taking the shot whatsoever. So I didn’t have any issues at all.”

Mack is one of nearly 1,400 veterans and VA staff members who have received the vaccine through the Columbia VA.

CEO David Omura says they’ve already vaccinated more than 41% of staff, and they’re trying to make the process for any veteran who wants the vaccine, as easy as possible.

“For all those who are enrolled that want the services, we’re following the CDC’s guidelines starting with the oldest first, 85 and above, and 75 and above, and now actually starting to look at some of our veterans that are 65 and older with co-morbidities,” Omura said. “We’re thrilled to be a part of the solution.”

So if you’re a veteran who has questions, or wants the vaccine, what’s the proper protocol?

“For those that are already in our system and are seeing a provider, that’s easy,” Omura said. “They can connect with them. For those that are not enrolled, they can very easily dial 803-776-4000, and dial option 5.”

If you’re a vet passing through South Carolina, Omura says you should probably try to set things up with the VA you’re used to visiting.

“Our recommendation is, we’re happy to answer questions, but if you’re already enrolled in a VA, it’d be great if could coordinate that service there,” he said. “If for some reason you’re here for a while and you feel like you need the help, we’re happy to talk to anyone.”

Leaders at the VA say they are currently reaching out to their “highest risk” veterans.

They say once larger quantities of the vaccine become available, their primary care teams will reach out to interested veterans to schedule vaccinations following a phased distribution plan.

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