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For the first time since March 2020, Veterans Affairs officials reported no new COVID-19 deaths on Monday among its patients across the country, according to Military Times .

The milestone offered a sign of hope after a year when more than 12,000 VA patients and 140 VA staffers have died from COVID-19 or coronavirus-related complications. The total equals about 27 deaths per day during the pandemic.

“No deaths is a testament to the hard work that our people have done to get the vaccine into people’s arms and highlights the fact that the vaccine works,” Richard Stone, tetracycline bruising MD, the VA’s acting under secretary for health, told the news outlet.

“But not everyone is protected,” he said. “And until we get to the point of everyone being protected, we’re going to keep working to reach every single veteran that is willing to take the vaccine.”

Active COVID-19 cases among VA patients also reached the lowest point since June 2020 in recent days. The department is treating about 2,550 cases at 138 medical facilities, according to the department’s latest update on Wednesday.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has given more than 6 million vaccines to veterans, relatives, caregivers, and VA employees. About 3 million people are fully vaccinated.

All veterans, spouses, and caregivers can get a free COVID-19 vaccine from the department, Military Times reported. Veterans Affairs officials announced on May 10 that these groups could get walk-in vaccine appointments at most VA medical locations.

The vaccination rate has slowed, Stone said, decreasing from about 50,000 shots per day in the early spring to less than 10,000 per day now.

“Part of that is because [many] people have been vaccinated,” he said. “But there’s a percentage of the population that still need to get their shots.”

Sources

Military Times: “Zero COVID deaths among Veterans Affairs patients for the first time in 14 months.”

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: “COVID-19 National Summary,” “VA offering walk-in COVID-19 vaccinations nationwide.”

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