Milwaukee VA Medical Center
Vets: Let us know if you got your COVID shot
As it becomes easier to get a COVID shot in the community, it’s imperative that Veterans who receive their care through the Milwaukee VA let their health-care team know their vaccination status.
Specifically, any enrolled Veteran who gets the shot anywhere in the community – but not through VA – should contact their primary care provider at VA.
This allows VA to better assess whom to contact regarding vaccination appointments and to get a better picture of how many Veterans have been vaccinated.
At the Green Bay VA outpatient clinic, staffers recently pored over data from the Wisconsin Immunization Registry in an effort to determine how many Veterans in their service area had been vaccinated.
What they learned was pretty astounding.
In the initial survey of one Primary Aligned Caregiver Team – typically about 200 Veterans – the percentage of Veterans age 65 and older who had been vaccinated jumped from 40% to 77% when the non-VA vaccinations were included with those who got their shots from VA.
“That’s much better than we anticipated,” said Gregg Gwidt, Green Bay’s chief nurse of ambulatory care.
“We had been hearing that many people were getting it (the vaccine) in the community, and while some let us know, it wasn’t a lot,” he said.
After the initial survey of one PACT, Green Bay chose to check all of its Veterans age 65 and older. That work is continuing, but Gwidt said the percentage increase is holding steady.
“On average, we’re increasing it by about 30 percent,” he said.
When the staffers come across Veterans who have not been vaccinated either in the community or through VA, they reach out to them.
If a Veteran is interested in getting the vaccine, an appointment is set up. If not, the Veteran is listed as “not interested,” in VA records.
“We’re trying to educate patients that if you get your care elsewhere, let us know,” Gwidt said.
“We use that information to better allocate resources. It allows us to call those who haven’t been vaccinated."Jeff Bispo, primary care assistant nurse manager
While the work by the Green Bay staff is valuable, it’s also time-consuming and tedious. And not all VA’s have the manpower to undertake such a project.
Staff in Milwaukee are also reaching out, though it’s been difficult, said Jeff Bispo, primary care assistant nurse manager who oversees the Matousek Clinic vaccination site at Milwaukee VA.
“It’s harder for us, because we’re a bigger facility,” he said, noting that vaccination staff have been doing the research and contacting Veterans during downtimes.
But now that vaccinations are open to all enrolled Veterans of any age, there is very little downtime, so Bispo is urging Veterans to call and make sure their information is up to date.
“We use that information to better allocate resources,” he said. “It allows us to call those who haven’t been vaccinated.”
In addition, Bispo said the contact helps VA staff update other changes in Veterans’ health, as many Veterans have been reluctant or unable to come to the hospital for the past year due to the pandemic.
“It’s an opportunity to touch base and see how they are doing,” he said. “It also gives us an opportunity to make sure their charts are up to date.”
VA-enrolled Veterans vaccinated outside the VA are urged to contact their VA health-care team. Here’s how:
- Bring your COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card to your next scheduled or routine visit with your health-care team.
- Snap a picture of your card and upload it using securing messaging on My HealtheVet. To enroll in the online portal to communicate with your health-care team, visit myhealth.va.gov.
All ages eligible
All enrolled Veterans, regardless of age, are eligible to receive the vaccine through VA.
There are a handful of ways enrolled Veterans can get an appointment to be vaccinated:
- While at a previously scheduled or routine appointment in the hospital.
- Using MyHealtheVet to send a secure message to your health-care team.
- Calling the COVID-19 vaccine scheduling team at 414-384-2000, ext. 44200.
In addition to offering vaccines during daily clinic hours, starting on March 23, the vaccine clinics will run 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays only.
Also, be advised that all enrolled Veterans are automatically enrolled in VEText. Veterans can check their “opt-in” status by sending a text message with “Start” to the number 530-79.
For more information on VEText, click here.