Veterans say they were turned away from vaccination clinic

Published: Mar. 5, 2021 at 11:22 PM EST
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ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) - Several veterans tell WCAX News that they were turned away at a special V.A. vaccination walk-in clinic at the Champlain Valley Expo on Friday morning.

Roughly 1,000 veterans stopped by to be vaccinated during the event which was scheduled from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. It was being held at the same time that the UVM Medical Center was also hosting a clinic in the same building.

According to Expo staff, the parking lot filled up quickly and security told veterans to leave the premises and return later in the day to get their shot. But several veterans, including 54-year-old Kye Richter of Saint Albans, say otherwise.

Richter says he and a friend, who is also a veteran, arrived at the Expo just before 9 a.m., which is right when the vaccination clinic was scheduled to open.

Richter says they were told by a police officer and a security guard that they had run out of the vaccine. Richter says the security guard told them they were “done for the day” and had already administered 400 shots and had let 1,000 people in. Richter reiterated to WCAX that no one told him to come back later to be vaccinated. Other veterans who contacted WCAX said they were also turned away and were not told to return.

“I think somebody from the V.A. needs to come forward and explain what happened, why this happened and how they’re going to ensure that this doesn’t happen again,” Richter said.

Richter wants to see better coordination and communication next time.

“Why don’t they run it like the state where you sign up and then you get some kind of a number or something and they say ‘You can show up any time between 9 and 1 and you’re going to get vaccine because you’ve already registered,” Richter said.

The V.A. says there was miscommunication among police and parking attendants.

“The Champlain Valley parking officials, Green Mountain Concert Services and Essex Police were incredibly helpful during the initial back-up but unfortunately word began spread that rather than being low on parking spots, we were low on vaccines. We never ran out of vaccine and in fact, vaccinated until 3 hours after advertised,” the V.A. said in a statement to WCAX.

Becky Rhoads, Associate Director of the White River Junction V.A. Healthcare System, issued an apology.

“For any veterans who came to receive a vaccine and were erroneously told that we were out of vaccine: please accept our deepest apologies for any confusion that occurred,” Rhoads said. “We hope that you will give us a call to get scheduled to get your vaccine at our dedicated vaccination scheduling line.” That number is (802) 296-5151.

The V.A. has also announced that the White River Junction V.A. Healthcare System has received a large shipment of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Starting next week, veterans of all ages will be eligible for vaccination by appointment. To schedule an appointment, you can call (892) 296-5151.

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