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VA hospital begins vaccinating LI veterans

Eugene Leavy of East Northport is expected to

Eugene Leavy of East Northport is expected to receive his first dose of the coronavirus vaccine this week at the Northport VA Medical Center.  Credit: Johnny Milano

The Northport VA Medical Center has begun vaccinating veterans, a spokesman for the hospital said.

Vaccinations are by appointment only and staffers are focusing on a group of about 4,000 veterans 75 and older who are already enrolled to receive care, spokesman Chad Cooper said.

Staffers had administered more than 500 doses by early this week and will give about 250 shots per day. The medical center is receiving doses from the federal government, according to Cooper, but he did not say how many.

"We hope over the next two months to continue to schedule every veteran who would like to receive [a vaccination]," he said in a phone interview.

Staffers are calling all VA outpatients who are at least 75 and have been treated by the VA in the past year to offer the vaccine and schedule appointments. After patients 75 and older have been vaccinated, VA staff will target those ages 65 to 74, then expand to patients younger than 65.

If an enrolled veteran has not been treated in the past year, the person's name and phone number can be added to a contact list for notification as additional supply of the vaccine becomes available, Cooper wrote in an email. Veterans who are not enrolled in VA care may contact the Northport VAMC Eligibility Section at 631-261-4400, ext. 2659 or 2660 to request an application. Veterans may also enroll at va.gov/health-care/apply/application/introduction.

Staffers also asked veterans to visit va.gov/health-care/covid-19-vaccine/stay-informed to indicate whether they intend to get the vaccine. Data from that website will help the VA gauge demand and ensure it has current contact information for veterans.

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The VA is not offering vaccinations at other sites on Long Island because the vaccine's six-hour shelf life once taken out of storage would make it logistically unfeasible, Cooper said. Coordinating personnel at remote locations would also be a challenge, he said, though "we may be looking at that at a future date."

Among those scheduled to be vaccinated is Eugene Leavy, 95, of East Northport, who served in the Army’s 100th Infantry Division during World War II. Leavy called a Newsday reporter Monday, anxious because he said the VA had not yet contacted him. They called him Tuesday, Leavy said.

He made an appointment for a Friday morning vaccination and a second shot in about three weeks.

Leavy said he was relieved. He lives alone and has curtailed his activities since last year to keep safe, with little recreation beyond watching Islanders games on television and hitting plastic golf balls in his backyard.

"I am told a whiff of the virus at my age, it’s pretty obvious what’s going to happen," he said.

With vaccination in sight, he was looking forward to real golf next summer and visiting family in Texas. One of his first calls was to a grandson there.

"As soon as I know I’m getting that second shot, I’ll call him" to arrange a visit, Leavy said.

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