Phoenix VA Health Care System
Phoenix VA Takes Flu Immunizations to Veterans
A team of nurses from the Phoenix VA Health Care System took a Mobile Medical Unit to the Gilbert Community Based Outpatient Clinic, Sept. 28, to provide immunizations to Veterans as part of an extended outreach effort to help reduce the effect of the coming flu season.
The outreach effort is the first of its kind by the PVAHCS and one of more than a dozen immunization events scheduled throughout the Valley and other PVAHCS locations this year.
“We looked for highly dense population areas to target our Veterans,” said Yancey Gaither, a registered nurse and coordinator of the immunization effort. “The flu is our major focus, but we will also give them pneumonia vaccines (Prevnar 13 and 23), and Tdap (protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis).”
The team also included a diabetes coordinator to assist Veterans with questions or concerns about diabetes or their diabetic medications. Gaither said there’s a high population of diabetic Veterans, so it was important that the diabetes coordinator was at the event. He added that future events will include a dietician who can provide Veterans with information on how to eat healthier and promote the Phoenix VA’s MOVE program to help Veterans learn to eat healthier.
“We give them the facts and walk them through the immunization process if they have any questions,” Gather said. “We’re trying to get the attention of Veterans when they enter or leave the building. Even if a Veteran elects not to receive a flu shot, they will still see us out there and know we care.”
The team vaccinated nearly 200 Veterans. Gather said his team was just doing its small part to show the Veterans that the Phoenix VA cares and is doing everything it can to ensure our Veteran population is as healthy as possible. In addition to the MMU effort for flu shots, the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center and community based outpatient clinics elected to instead set up immunization stations at the entrance of their facilities to help provide better access and care to the Veterans.
“The staff who are doing this are awesome,” Gaither said. “I was assigned to do these events, but the nurses out there on their feet all day volunteered to do this. This is a testament to the employees who show their commitment to caring for our Veterans.”
Gaither wasn’t the only person singing the praises of the efforts of VA employees.
“Thank you for being here for us,” said Rodney Schmidt, a Desert Storm-Era Veteran who received his flu shot from the MMU team. “You know, it’s a rare commodity anymore. I was just saying to another Veteran in there that I didn’t realize how things have changed from the past to today. A lot of things are different and the VA is really taking care of us.”
Gaither said it was important for him to view the effort as more of an help promotion event where Veterans can receive information about any of their needs and not just receive a flu shot. He said the MMU team is working with the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Elks Lodge and other Veterans Service Organizations to help provide Veterans their immunizations. The team has already provided their services in the Payson area and other remote locations within the PVAHCS area of responsibility.
“We want to make it convenient so Veterans don’t have to go see their doctor,” Gaither said. “What we do is really not much considering the value the Veterans get by us coming out. Having the MMU is great because it acts as a billboard and attracts more Veterans to get their immunizations.”
Gaither said it’s difficult to measure the impact the vaccinations have on an individual, but the potential impact on the community is great.
“The debate is over,” Gaither said. “It’s proven - Vaccines work. The individual impact is hard to measure, but globally and communally speaking, it’s had a major impact. The rates of influenza go down when you vaccinate the population.”
Gaither said people have taken issue with the cost of the vaccinations, but he added in the big picture, it’s a drop in the bucket as long-term hospitalizations due to influenza can potentially cost a person hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills.
The MMU team has immunization events set for the following dates and locations:
- Oct. 19 – American Legion, 206 N. Gilbert Rd., Gilbert, AZ 85234
- Oct. 26 – Northwest CBOC, 13985 W. Grand Ave. #101, Surprise, AZ 85374
- Nov. 2 – Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, 612 Ellsworth Rd., Mesa, AZ 85208
- Nov. 9 – Payson, Ariz., Payson Elks Lodge, 1206 N. Beeline Hwy., Payson, AZ 85541
- Nov. 16 – Southwest CBOC, 9250 W. Thomas Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85037
- Nov. 30 – Glendale Nazarene, 5902 W. Cactus Rd., Glendale, AZ 85304
- Dec. 7 – Chandler Walmart, 1175 S. Arizona Ave., Chandler, AZ 85286Dec. 14 – Raceway Lodge (Elks Lodge), 215 W. Van Buren St., Avondale, AZ 85392