The Veterans Affairs Pacific Islands Health Care System, which includes Hawaii, will receive “limited” doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine this week as part of a distribution to 113 medical centers and outpatient clinics, the VA said today.
On Friday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for the Moderna vaccine, which followed approval of a vaccine made by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE.
“Having a second COVID-19 vaccine will enable us to reach more facilities and vaccinate more health care personnel and veterans in additional parts of the country,” VA Secretary Robert L. Wilkie said in a news release. “We continue to implement our COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan and are grateful to be one step closer to seeing the end of this pandemic.”
Following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, the VA said it will vaccinate health care personnel as well as community living center and spinal cord unit residents.
“As vaccine supplies increase, VA’s ultimate goal is to offer COVID-19 vaccinations to all veterans and employees who want to be vaccinated,” the federal agency said.
The VA Pacific Islands Health Care System said it has 56,000 registered veterans.
Last week, 37 VA medical centers across the country began receiving and administering the Pfizer vaccine, but the VA Pacific Islands Health Care System, headquartered on Oahu, was not selected due to its freezer limitations, officials said.
The Pfizer vaccine requires minus-80 degrees Celsius storage in ultra-cold freezers. The Moderna vaccine, which is given in two doses 28 days apart, arrives frozen between -25 degree Celsius and -15 degrees Celsius (-13 degrees Fahrenheit and 5 degrees Fahrenheit) and can be stored in a freezer or refrigerator.
The VA Pacific Islands system provides outpatient medical and mental health care in Hawaii and the Pacific islands through its main ambulatory care clinic on Oahu and through seven community-based outpatient clinics including: West Oahu, Hawaii island (Hilo and Kona), Maui, Kauai, American Samoa and Guam.
“I want you to know that when we receive the vaccine we are prepared to strategically administer it. Our COVID-19 planning team has been working tirelessly to prepare,” Dr. Adam M. Robinson, director of the Pacific Islands Health Care System, said in a “Veterans’ Message” last week.