Open letter from Senator Elizabeth Dole to local and state officials urging them to prioritize military and veteran caregivers in their plans for COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
Dear state and local leaders,
We, at the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, hope this finds you and your families safe and healthy during these challenging times.
I write to you today asking for your support in the prioritization of COVID-19 vaccine access to military and veteran caregivers. The Elizabeth Dole Foundation represents the interests and voices of America’s Hidden Heroes, the 5.5 million individuals providing 24/7 care for our wounded, ill or injured veterans and servicemembers at home. These spouses, family members, and other loved ones have been on the frontlines of this pandemic since February. Collectively, our caregiver community is caring for thousands of veterans with active and former COVID-19 infections. In fact, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has recently set a new record high for active virus cases, now surpassing 100,000 total confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic.
The majority of the veterans that military caregivers support are individuals with serious injuries and illnesses who are often more vulnerable to complications as a result of COVID-19. Already in an immunocompromised or immunosuppressed state, it’s important that these wounded veterans and their caregivers take every precaution available to ensure they limit their risks. Providing military and veteran families access to a layer of protection through vaccination would make an immense difference in their safety and in matters of life and death. Prioritizing vaccinations for our frontline health care staff, that includes these military and veteran caregivers and the vulnerable individuals they serve, will be critical in achieving that goal.
We know that the best chance for a wounded warrior to recover and thrive is having a strong, healthy, well-supported caregiver. I ask that you support the Elizabeth Dole Foundation in our recommendation that veteran caregivers are considered essential care workers and that you include these hidden heroes as a core constituency in your Phase 1 protocols. 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.
I recognize that the ultimate decision on prioritization of vaccine administration rests with states and localities that best fit your population’s needs. As such, we request that you take all reasonable steps to support the adoption of our recommendation. The Elizabeth Dole Foundation stands ready to assist you in any respect needed to provide these essential caregivers with the knowledge of and access to the vaccine, in addition to providing you with state-level data on where these veterans and caregivers live in your state.
With great respect and deep appreciation,
Senator Elizabeth Dole