SEATTLE — New legislation is now allowing every military veteran to sign up for the COVID-19 vaccine.
As part of the Save Lives Act signed by President Joe Biden, all veterans across the country are now eligible to get vaccinated, regardless of when they served in the armed forces or how old they are.
In the Puget Sound region, Air Force veteran Antonio Castillo is set to get his first shot next week.
“I just got a text (from the Puget Sound VA) out of the blue, so it was just amazing because I was worried myself, ‘When can I get vaccinated?’ I had so many questions,” he told KIRO 7.
Castillo is only 26. Yet he will soon be moving in with his elderly father, which he said heightened the importance of getting vaccinated.
“As long as (my father) is protected, I did my part, and I’m encouraging him to do the same,” Castillo said.
Up until recently, Castillo would’ve largely been out of luck.
That’s because the Veterans Affairs had only been giving vaccinations to vets who were enrolled in VA health care.
Now, all vets, including their spouses and their caretakers, can get a shot.
“This is definitely a multi-disciplinary team that’s running this vaccine clinic, and the ability to serve our community is probably the thing that brings us into the office and keeps us going,” said Maureen McLain, vaccine coordinator with the Puget Sound VA.
The latest numbers indicate there is still plenty of work to be done.
In the Puget Sound region alone, tens of thousands of vets still have yet to be vaccinated.
“I think it’s just the military mentality to tough it all out: ‘Oh, I don’t need to see a doctor. I don’t need to get vaccinated,’” Castillo said. “That mentality is engraved in you.”
By opening up availability to everyone, the VA stated it hoped to inspire as many vets as possible to get protected.
“I think everybody should get vaccinated. Everybody do their part and contribute,” Castillo said.
Despite vaccinations being open to all veterans, McLain said priority will still be given to those who are older, as well as people with medical conditions.
Newly eligible veterans are asked to visit www.va.gov/health-care/covid-19-vaccine/stay-informed to confirm interest in getting the vaccine.