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COVID vaccines at VA soon, but supply problems remain

Congress and Veterans Affairs leaders want to get as many veterans vaccinated against COVID-19 as possible in coming months.

How quickly they can do that is still a big question, however.

On Tuesday, House lawmakers approved new legislation that would allow VA health officials to offer vaccines to any veteran — including those living abroad — and most caregivers when supplies become available.

 Under current rules, only veterans who are eligible for VA health care and certain caregivers enrolled in the official VA assistance program can get the shots. Veterans living abroad who are enrolled in the Foreign Medical Program are also ineligible for coronavirus-related testing or treatments.

“We don’t have time to waste,” House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano, D-Calif., said in a statement after the bill’s passage. “We must get more shots in arms, our VA VACCINE Act makes sure that VA can.”

The measure passed without any objection and strong support from several prominent Republicans, including committee ranking member Mike Bost, R-Ill. It now heads to the Senate, where earlier this week the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee offered a similar measure with a goal of increasing the number of vaccinated vets.

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