Open letter from Wounded Warrior Project and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation to Secretary Wilkie requesting COVID-19 vaccine distribution for severely injured veterans and their caregivers.
December 21, 2020
The Honorable Robert Wilkie
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Washington, D.C. 20420-0001
The Honorable Christopher C. Miller
Acting Secretary of Defense
Washington, D.C. 20301-1000
Dr. Robert R. Redfield
Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Atlanta, GA 30333-4027
Dear Secretary Wilkie, Acting Secretary Miller, and Director Redfield;
On behalf of America’s leading veteran and veteran caregiver organizations, we write to respectfully ask that you take swift action to prioritize COVID-19 vaccine access for those severely injured in service and those who care for them at home. We believe that wounded, ill or injured veterans and Service members are among the most at-risk populations in our country, and we acknowledge that their caregivers – spouses, family members, and other loved ones – have been on the frontlines of this pandemic since February. Collectively, caregivers are caring for thousands of veterans with active and former COVID-19 infections, and thousands more who remain at high risk.
The majority of the men and women that our veteran and military caregivers support are individuals with severe injuries and illnesses who are more vulnerable to complications as a result of COVID-19. Already in an immunocompromised or immunosuppressed state, it is important that these wounded veterans, Service members, and their caregivers take every precaution available to limit their risks. Providing these individuals access to a layer of protection through vaccination will make an immense difference in their safety and in matters of life and death. Prioritizing vaccinations that include these military and veteran caregivers and the vulnerable individuals they serve, is critical in achieving that goal.
We know that throughout these uncertain times, many of those severely injured or ill have experienced challenges accessing their healthcare providers, and their respective caregivers have struggled to obtain the necessary personal protective equipment to care for them. A wounded warrior has the best chance to recover and thrive by having a strong, healthy, well-supported caregiver. Additionally, veteran caregivers serving high-risk, vulnerable individuals should be part of the first group to receive COVID-19 vaccines and more specifically be vaccinated in coordination with their veteran. For these reasons, we ask that you support our recommendation that severely injured veterans and their caregivers, who are essential care workers, are considered a core constituency in your phase vaccination protocols.
We recognize that there are many factors regarding decisions about prioritizing vaccine administration. As those factors are considered, we request that you take all reasonable steps to support the adoption of our recommendation. Collectively, we stand ready to assist you in any respect needed to provide these veterans and caregivers with the knowledge of and access to the vaccine, in addition to providing you with the data on where these individuals are located.
Steve Schwab Michael S. Linnington, LTG (ret), U.S. Army
Chief Executive Officer Chief Executive Officer
Elizabeth Dole Foundation Wounded Warrior Project