This was the first such authorization in the entire VA to avoid weather-related travel issues and get the vaccine to remote VA clinics.
VA Portland has administered more than 400 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine to Bend VA Clinic Veterans since January 19.
The health care system has delivered more than 27,500 doses across its entire 26-county area of responsibility in Oregon and Southwest Washington.
The majority of these 144 doses delivered will be second doses given today through Tuesday as the Pfizer vaccine is only good for 120 hours after being thawed; once the vials are opened the vaccine must be used within six hours.
“We are doing our best to vaccinate our rural area Veterans across our health care system as quickly as we can,” said Darwin Goodspeed, the VA Portland Health Care System director. “The logistics and extreme cold storage requirements with the Pfizer vaccine has made this effort challenging. We expect to improve our vaccination numbers in the coming weeks as we start to receive the Moderna vaccine, which does not have as stringent of requirements for transporting and storing the vaccine.”
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-years 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.
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.