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Stories, Stats, Impacts: Wyoming Public Media is here to keep you current on the news surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

Sheridan VA Begins COVID-19 Vaccinations

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Official VA Photo by Cynthia Neukam
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The Sheridan VA has begun to vaccinate employees and high-risk veterans with a COVID-19 vaccine.

The health system in Sheridan received its first shipment of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on December 22. As of Wednesday, January 6,171 employees and 49 veterans have been vaccinated with the first of two doses.

Sheridan VA Pharmacy Chief Kelly Moran said they are beginning with personnel and veterans who live at the long-term care facility or in the residential treatment program on the Sheridan VA campus. Starting this week, they are also adding more to those currently eligible under the Centers for Disease Control's plan for vaccine rollout.

"The next stage is veterans greater than 75 and essential workers," Moran said. "And just because of the limited number of vaccines that we've received, we are starting with specifically those higher risk patients."

However, due to the amount of vaccines that have been shipped to the Sheridan VA, Moran said they will be starting at 85 years of age, rather than 75 years old. 

Moran said the high risk patients include those who have had transplants or who are on chemotherapy.

Sheridan VA Medical Center Director Pam Crowell said those veterans who are in the long-term care program have been strictly isolated since the pandemic began because of health concerns. But now that can change.

"If we can build immunity within that population, then that means they can have visitors and they can have more freedom to leave the unit. And they won't be in a place where we have a really isolated environment for them," she said."

The Sheridan VA is also beginning to send vaccines out to smaller clinics in the VA's service area this week.

"We are pushing that out to our outreach clinics in action at Evanston and then in Rock Springs. So we not only are going to make sure that our [community-based outpatient clinic] employees are vaccinated, we are going to start that next phased approach to make sure that as higher risk veterans get vaccinated," she said.

Moran said so far, around half of the veterans the Sheridan VA serves have expressed interest in getting the vaccine or have already been scheduled to receive it.

Veterans do not have to sign up on a waitlist to be considered. Instead, the VA will contact them when it's their opportunity to be scheduled, Moran said.

The Sheridan VA Health System was selected as one of 113 VAs in the country to receive the first round of Moderna vaccines.

This story has been updated to clarify what age the next priority group is for the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Catherine Wheeler, at cwheel11@uwyo.edu

Catherine Wheeler comes to Wyoming from Kansas City, Missouri. She has worked at public media stations in Missouri and on the Vox podcast "Today, Explained." Catherine graduated from Fort Lewis College with a BA in English. She recently received her master in journalism from the University of Missouri. Catherine enjoys cooking, looming, reading and the outdoors.
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