ST. LOUIS ( -- Thousands of St. Louis-area veterans are now qualified to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

According to officials, veterans registered with the St. Louis VA who are 65 or older, or veterans of any age with an underlying condition or illness can make an appointment to get the vaccine.

Although veterans need to be registered with the St. Louis VA, they do not need to be actively receiving care. Chuck Von Bokel and his brother Marty both served in the Vietnam War, and after several phone calls, were able to make appointments to get the COVID-19 vaccine Friday.

“I didn’t think I was going to get it until May or June so when I found out I was getting it Friday I did a happy dance all day,” Chuck said.

Dr. Patricia McKelvy, a primary care physician at the St. Louis VA, said they started administering vaccines to in-patient veterans weeks ago.

Monday, they began giving vaccines to outpatient veterans who qualify. The vaccines are administered at Jefferson Barracks and, starting Thursday, will also be offered at a VA Clinic at 2727 Washington Avenue in downtown St. Louis.

“The response at times has overwhelmed our phone system so we have been trying to increase the number of channels that veterans can use to communicate with us,” McKelvy said.

Instead of calling, McKelvy urges veterans to email to make an appointment. She said they are working to vaccinate every veteran who wants the vaccine. For veterans who don’t qualify right now, McKelvy said the VA will send letters to them once it’s their turn to get the vaccine.

She said they are working to expand hours at the clinics and offer appointments on weekends to ensure they are giving vaccines to all veterans who want them.

“Our goal is to vaccinate all veterans,” McKelvy said. “That is our overreaching goal to vaccinate every single person who wants to be vaccinated and we’re doing everything we can to make that happen.”

Copyright 2021 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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