Veterans Affairs medical centers across America are now offering walk-in appointments for coronavirus vaccines for all veterans, their spouses and their caregivers, officials announced on Monday.

The move comes as VA leaders near 3 million vaccinations for veterans and federal employees over the last five months, but also amid a slowdown in demand among many Americans for the vaccine.

About half of all U.S. adults have received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, according to federal health experts. The White House has set a goal of getting that number about 70 percent by July 4.

Until now, all veterans living in the United States had been eligible to make appointments for the coronavirus vaccine, but walk-in appointments were not allowed. The change was made as more doses have been made available to the department and more offices have returned to normal operations.

“VA encourages those who wish to get their COVID-19 vaccine without an appointment to check the walk-in hours and requirements at their local facility,” acting VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. Richard Stone said in a statement

“Individuals taking advantage of walk-in vaccinations may need to wait for the vaccine to be prepared and will be screened when entering the facility.”

VA officials have said that as many as 31 million Americans are eligible to receive vaccines through the department, but many of those individuals have other options for vaccinations such as state-run mass vaccination sites and personal physicians. The department does not track veterans who receive the vaccine outside the VA system.

More than 257,000 VA patients and employees have contracted coronavirus since the start of the American pandemic in March 2020. As of Monday morning, 11,874 patients and 140 VA staffers have died from complications related to the virus.

The rate of active virus cases in VA medical centers across the country has decreased significantly in recent weeks, down 18 percent in the last two weeks and 23 percent in the last month.

Total active cases in the VA system are down nearly 83 percent since the pandemic peaked in mid-January.

VA vaccination clinics are not open 24 hours, and face masks are still mandatory for all visitors to VA health care facilities.

More information on vaccines is available on the VA web site.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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