It’s not too late to get your flu vaccination, as the season continues well into spring. To protect yourself, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends receiving a yearly flu vaccination. In addition, it suggests washing your hands, covering your mouth when you cough and sneeze, and staying home and away from others when you’re sick.
To make it easier for our Veterans, VA has several methods for getting a vaccination.
VA Medical Facilities. VA offers free flu vaccinations at all VA medical centers and community-based outpatient clinics. Veterans simply need to ask their primary care providers for the vaccination when they visit.
Care in the community
Walgreens. Veterans enrolled with VA health care can receive a no-cost vaccination through the Retail Immunization Care Coordination Program. The program is available at 9,600-plus Walgreens pharmacies nationally. Veterans need to present their Veterans Health Identification Card (VHIC) and another form of photo ID to receive a vaccination. To find the nearest Walgreens, call 800-925-4733 or visit www.walgreens.com/storelocator/find.jsp.
Community Care Network (CCN) Contracts. CCN-eligible Veterans who are enrolled in VA health care and located in CCN Regions 1, 2 and 3 can receive their vaccine at any CVS Caremark through March 31, 2020. Caremark is the CCN in-network pharmacy provider. No appointment is required. CCN-eligible Veterans can visit a CVS Caremark in-network pharmacy, tell the pharmacist they receive care at a VA medical facility and show at least one government-issued photo ID to get the shot. For more information about CVS Caremark in-network pharmacy locations and hours, visit vacommunitycare.com/flushot.
Urgent Care In-network locations. Veterans can receive a vaccine, paid for by VA, at an in-network urgent care location. The shot must be administered in conjunction with a condition requiring urgent care. For more information, visit www.va.gov/COMMUNITYCARE/programs/veterans/Urgent_Care.asp. Beginning March 18, Veterans residing in CCN Region 1 can receive a flu vaccine at an in-network urgent care location. Region 1 states are: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia. [This section of the blog was updated on 2/25 to reflect a change in the start date, from 3/2 to 3/18.]
Community Providers. Veterans receiving VA-authorized community care can receive the vaccine from their community provider.
The current season
The flu season is off to a fast start. For the week ending Jan. 11, the CDC classified 48 states as having “widespread” outbreaks. The highest rates of infection are within the age groups 50-64 and over 65. Those groups are prime demographics for VA’s Veteran population. You can track weekly national trends at the CDC website www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/usmap.htm.
For more information, visit www.va.gov/COMMUNITYCARE/programs/veterans/immunization.asp or www.publichealth.va.gov/flu/vaccination/index.asp.
Jason T. Strickland is the director of communications for VHA’s Office of Community Care.