ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Congressman Charlie Crist is making a big push to get COVID-19 vaccines into the arms of our nation’s heroes.
Right now, veterans have to be at least 75 years old to get a vaccine through the VA. Crist wants the age limit to be lowered to 65, which he says would open up vaccine appointments to thousands more veterans.
The Bay Pines VA in St. Petersburg has now vaccinated 15,500 veterans, which is a relatively small number in comparison to the 100,000 veterans the hospital serves.
Crist says he’s frustrated that those who have served our nation are not getting priority when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine and while veterans who are above 65 can get registered through the local health departments, the process isn’t always easy.
This morning I paid a visit to Captain John Arens, a 94 year-old veteran of four wars – WWII, the Korean, Vietnam, and Gulf Wars – as he and his wife Lois received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. pic.twitter.com/JJivkFRUuH— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) February 11, 2021
Crist also says he’s frustrated with the slow vaccine rollout statewide.
“It’s been unconscionable to me frankly and very disappointing about the distribution of the vaccine in Florida. My heart bleeds for our fellow Floridians. 200 die every day and that’s just not right and much of the reason is they’re not getting the vaccine,” Crist elaborated.
He plans to introduce the Vaccines for Veterans bill to Congress next week.
The announcement comes as the Department of Health and Human Services says they will be distributing 200,000 Moderna COVID-19 doses this week. Those shots will be split between 215 VA facilities nationwide.
Crist says since so many veterans have underlying health conditions, he worries they may be more susceptible to getting the virus.
Vietnam Veteran John Makas Jr. says he’s anxious to get the vaccine after he recently contracted COVID-19 himself.
“Fortunately, I was one of the lucky ones. All I had was the loss of taste and smell but the person I got it from while hunting was in bed for two weeks and I took him to the hospital twice because he thought he was going to die,” Makas explained adding that changing the age requirement is crucial and what he feels is a common-sense solution to protecting veterans.
Homebound World War II and Vietnam War veterans in Florida wishing to get vaccinated need to fill out this form.