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Utah veterans 65 and older are eligible to be vaccinated



Utah – Veterans 65 and older, as well as younger veterans with certain preexisting medical conditions, are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City.

Vaccinations are open to all veterans who meet the qualifications, whether or not they receive health care through the VA, according to Jill Atwood, director of communications for the Salt Lake City location. Certain caregivers are also eligible, Atwood added.

To check eligibility or to register for an appointment, call the VA at 801-582-1565 ext. 5657. The clinic is not accepting walk-in appointments.

Atwood said the VA is calling eligible veterans, but that those seeking a vaccine can contact the hotline to schedule an appointment at any time.

There are 561 veterans enrolled in the VA health care system who live in Summit County, Atwood said, 289 of whom are 65 or older.

Summit County Manager Tom Fisher said there are nearly 1,400 veterans living in the county.

He indicated that if veterans who live in Summit County receive a vaccine through the VA health care system, it would enable the county to spread its vaccine resources more broadly.

The vaccinations are being conducted at the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 500 Foothill Drive, in Salt Lake City.

Atwood said Wednesday the clinic has the procedure “down to a science,” that it’s already vaccinated hospital employees and about 3,000 veterans, and has about 6,500 appointments scheduled through February.

“It’s gone a lot smoother than we anticipated,” Atwood said. “We’re getting more vaccine than we thought we would, and the process is going quicker. I had no idea we’d have this many people vaccinated as soon as we have.”

Atwood said there are about 150,000 veterans in Utah, but only 65,000 of them are enrolled to receive medical services through the VA. Unenrolled veterans are still eligible to be vaccinated at the center, though they will be asked to enroll in the medical services, Atwood said.

Summit County Council Chair Glenn Wright, a U.S. Air Force veteran, said recently he signed up to receive a vaccine through the VA in Salt Lake City.

Atwood said the VA is vaccinating about 300 veterans per day. The goal is to vaccinate 60% to 70% of veterans by the summer. She anticipates the VA will be able to vaccinate about 1,000 people per day when vaccine supply increases. She said the clinic runs every day of the week except for Sundays.

Once the VA has vaccinated a sufficient amount of veterans, Atwood said, it would likely pivot to its “fourth mission,” which is to aid people in need. In this case, that means setting up mass vaccination clinics for members of the general public.

“In times of crisis, we serve the community at large, and not just veterans,” Atwood said.