The Office of Veterans’ Services in Somerville and Revere and the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System organized a COVID-19 vaccination clinic for veterans on April 3 at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Beachmont Post 6712. The clinic offered vaccines to any and all veterans provided that they were registered for VA health care. This registration could also be completed at the event itself.
In an announcement, Somerville Director of Veterans’ Services Ted Louis-Jacques explained the reason behind the organizing of this clinic.
“It was imperative that we create a multi-faceted strategy to reach the Veterans population by bringing vaccinations directly into impacted communities and offering an exclusive COVID-19 clinic for Veterans of all ages,” Louis-Jacques said. “This partnership is indicative of the fundamental changes that can happen when you provide access, break down barriers and close equity gaps for the people who need it most.”
The announcement outlined the process and vaccine offerings.
“The Moderna and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine will be offered at the clinic,” the announcement said. “Individuals who receive the Moderna vaccine will be scheduled to receive the second dose on May 1, 2021. A second dose is not needed for the [J&J] vaccine.”
The clinic was designed to efficiently distribute doses to a population that was both deserving and in need of vaccination. Marc Silvestri, director of veterans services for the City of Revere, discussed the process of realizing this goal.
“It kind of felt like it was falling on deaf ears for a little while and we kept pushing and pushing and pushing,” Silvestri said. “It was supposed to happen a couple of weeks back, and then it was supposed to happen on [March] 27th again. So I kind of started to lose faith a bit, and then they came out just before the 27th, inspected the hall, and they were able to approve the VFW site in Revere.”
To secure the doses needed to vaccinate veterans, the cities’ Offices of Veterans’ Services were able to go through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which has been able to prioritize vaccination for veterans in particular.
“The doses are actually provided to us from the VA,” Silvestri said. ”I believe that the federal government is the one that’s supplying the vaccinations to the [department], but they’ve handled this amazingly smooth as far as the vaccination rollout.”
The federal government has done more than just supply doses of the vaccine to the Department of Veteran Affairs — they have also taken action to make these doses available to a more inclusive population of veterans.
“Two weeks ago, Congress filed the Save Lives Act, and Friday … Biden signed it into law, and that opens up all veterans to have access to the vaccine, not just the ones enrolled in VA clinic,” Silvestri said. “So this is going to help get our numbers up and get some people vaccinated that would be ultimately not able to yet in the VA system.”
According to Silvestri, similar vaccination clinics for veterans had seen around two to four hundred veterans appear for vaccinations, a number that could potentially have increased.
Louis-Jacques said the Somerville and Revere clinic was successful.
“The clinic went well on Saturday,” Louis-Jaques wrote in an email to the Daily. “Everything was smooth. We had more than 125 Veterans vaccinated. They were very pleased for the opportunity to get a vaccine.”
The clinic was a successful example of cooperation between the cities of Somerville and Revere over the shared interest of protecting the veterans of each community.
“It all comes down to getting veterans vaccinated,” Louis-Jacques said. “Whatever was going to get that we were willing to put in the work.”