COVID-19 vaccines becoming available for veterans, including through Tuesday clinic

  • A COVID-19 vaccine clinic for veterans will be held at the Kringle Candle store at 220 South St. in Bernardston on Tuesday. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • A vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 4/4/2021 12:14:15 PM
Modified: 4/4/2021 12:14:14 PM

BERNARDSTON — Vaccines for veterans are gradually becoming available through the region’s Veterans Affairs offices. An outreach clinic on Tuesday will be one of the best opportunities to get a vaccine locally for the foreseeable future, according to the Upper Pioneer Valley Veterans’ Services District.

The clinic will be held at Kringle Candle, at 220 South St. in Bernardston, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. It is available by appointment to any veteran who is enrolled in the Veterans Affairs health care program. To schedule an appointment, call 413-582-3110.

Even veterans who are not yet enrolled in the Veterans Affairs health care program may still have time to enroll and book an appointment for Tuesday, said Tim Niejadlik, director of the Upper Pioneer Valley Veterans’ Services District.

“If you’re not enrolled, now is the time to attempt to get enrolled,” Niejadlik said. “They’re enrolling people almost the same day to get shots.”

Information on how to enroll in the health care system is available from the Upper Pioneer Valley Veterans’ Services District, at 294 Main St. in Greenfield. The office can be reached by phone at 413-772-1571.

Even if veterans don’t have time to enroll and book an appointment for the Tuesday clinic, Niejadlik said his office is still encouraging people to enroll, because it will demonstrate to the larger Veterans Affairs system that there is interest in vaccine clinics in the Franklin County area.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is gradually moving toward making vaccines available not only for veterans, but also for their family members and caregivers. Congress passed a law to provide this service on March 24.

There aren’t enough vaccines yet for family members and caregivers, but the VA has begun making vaccines available for veterans, through clinics like the one this coming Tuesday, Niejadlik said.

This is a unique opportunity because it effectively allows veterans to qualify for a vaccine immediately, regardless of age or other health conditions, Niejadlik said.

Providing vaccines initially proved to be difficult, and the VA had trouble staffing its clinics and securing vaccines, Niejadlik said. However, he said it has since become better organized.

Locally, there are two options for veterans to get vaccines through the VA. One would be to try to book an appointment at the Greenfield VA clinic, at 143 Munson St., but shots are not always available, Niejadlik said. The Munson Street clinic can be reached at 413-773-8428.

The other option is in outreach clinics, like the one this coming Tuesday. The VA of Western Massachusetts is expected to host such clinics once a week, in different locations in the region, Niejadlik said. Future outreach clinics are expected to be held in North Adams, Pittsfield and Westfield.

That is why, for all veterans who may be interested in getting a vaccine sooner or later, it is a good idea to enroll in the VA’s health care system, Niejadlik said. It will show the VA that there is interest in the Franklin County area, and will encourage them to hold more clinics here.

“It will incentivize the VA to come around to the area again,” Niejadlik said.

A future VA outreach clinic in the Franklin County area has not been announced yet, but Niejadlik guessed that it would likely be held a month from now.

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