By PHYLLIS HODGES
Good news for veterans and their families. The Tampa VA is expanding the scope of its vaccine offerings with a newly established drive-through clinic at the University of South Florida’s Yuengling Center (formerly Sun Dome).
The James A. Haley Veterans Hospital started December 21 vaccinating VA staff, veterans enrolled in VA and verified caregivers. Then in mid-March, a formal FEMA Mission Assignment created the unique partnership between the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital & Clinics (Tampa VA) and Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County (DOH-Hillsborough), enabling the Tampa VA to vaccinate non-VA patients. They were then utilizing a drive-through clinic adjacent to the Tampa VA main hospital.
The move to a larger site (USF) expands the eligible categories and currently includes the following:
Any veteran—VA patients and non-VA patients (not enrolled in or eligible for VA health care),
Family members of VA patients (currently receiving VA care),
Family members of veterans who are not VA patients,
VA staff and family members and
Those wishing to receive a vaccination must also meet the current Florida eligibility requirements.
David VanMeter, Tampa VA interim director, said the move reflects the University’s long-standing commitment to community service and support of veterans in the Tampa Bay area. “It makes sense for us to combine our resources and skill sets to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible. Since December 2020 we have vaccinated tens of thousands of veterans and employees. This new location will allow us to offer even more protection to their family members now, too, as well as veterans not in our care.”
Vaccinations are available by appointment by visiting the Tampa VA’s EventBrite page. For information on scheduling, visit the VA web site at www.tampa.va.gov/, then click on the “vaccine information page.” They will accept walk-ins as supply allows.
To date, the Tampa VA has vaccinated 57 percent of its 52,000 enrolled veterans and 82 percent of its 5,100 employees. 7,400 Department of Health doses have been administered to the community.
Their focus now is to address COVID-19 Vaccine hesitancy through virtual Q&A forums, one-on-one conversations with primary care providers, patient and provider testimonials, listening to concerns and sharing facts.
VanMeter said that the hospital and its clinics are continuing safe COVID-19 practices. “We started implementing these measures in early March of 2020 and have adapted them to match changing CDC guidelines and the evolving situation,” he said. Currently, the hospital has only four COVID patients, and as of April 1, the hospital has updated its visitation policy. One visitor per patient per day is now allowed in Medical-Surgical and ICU areas.
Commenting on the expansion at Tampa VA’s main hospital (Bruce B. Downs Boulevard) to add single-patient rooms, VanMeter said the project is proceeding on schedule with expected completion on major construction by the end of this year, with the first patients to be admitted early in 2022.