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Senator Sinema sponsors bill opening up Veterans Affairs vaccine eligibility

Phoenix VA Hospital
Posted at 6:06 AM, Mar 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-30 11:02:42-04

PHOENIX — Another shipment of COVID-19 vaccines arrived at the Phoenix VA on Monday morning.

This time, Senator Kyrsten Sinema was watching on the loading dock. She's the co-sponsor of the Save Lives Act.

"So we're using the VA as a conduit to get more and more people vaccinated," said Senator Sinema.

The Saves Lives Act was signed into law last week. Before that, only veterans enrolled in the VA's healthcare system could get a vaccine.

Now veterans, regardless of their enrollment status, their spouses, and caregivers can get a shot.

"So in February we learned that veterans who are not enrolled in the VA, caregivers and spouses couldn't get their vaccinations from the VA even while they were bringing the veteran here to get his or her vaccine," said Sinema. "When we noticed that problem, that's when we introduced the legislation."

The Department of Veterans Affairs says before the law, about 9.5 million individuals were eligible to get a vaccine. The number has now expanded to 33 million eligible.

In Phoenix, they're able to administer 720 shots a day. This week they'll be able to bump the number up to 1,100.

Even though the number of vaccinations continues to climb and there are fewer cases being reported, ABC15 asked the Senator her thoughts on Governor Doug Ducey loosening COVID restrictions in the state.

"Well first I want to say we are not out of the woods yet," said Sinema. "Only about 20% of eligible Arizonans are vaccinated. And we know that we need to get to close to 70% before life can go back to normal."

Veterans, caregivers, spouses and CHAMPVA beneficiaries newly eligible under the law can register for the vaccine and get updates about the VA's vaccine rollout process here.