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Veterans Health Council, November/December 2020 -   -  

United Health Care

Saving Lives, Thanking Partners

Although we may have to wait for a COVID-19 vaccine, it makes no sense not to protect ourselves from the diseases we can already prevent. The vaccines we received as children in many cases protect us throughout much of our lives, but some must be repeated to ensure protection. 

According to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, of which the Veterans Health Council is a member, non-influenza vaccination rates among all ages have declined since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with rates for adults age 65 years and older dropping 83 percent compared to last year.

Are your vaccines up to date? Did you get a flu shot this year? If you did, great; if not, get one. Ask your doctor about any other immunizations you may need, including for shingles, pneumonia (two different vaccines), and TDAP (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis).

As we roll into the winter months, we become more susceptible to illness, particularly respiratory infections. With a great burden already on the health care system because of COVID-19, it is our responsibility to do everything we can not to tax it further.


VVA and VHC are grateful to Mia T. Masten, National Director for Advocacy and Professional Relations at Pfizer, Inc., for Pfizer’s generous grant to our mission to support the health and well-being of all who have served our nation in uniform. 

We remain committed to working with Pfizer on the COVID-19 Five-Point Plan. The old Ben Franklin axiom, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” rings true. The pandemic has underscored the importance of prevention to protect good health.

I look forward to continued involvement as a member of Pfizer’s C. difficile Steering Committee, as well as other public policy programs. We are grateful for VVA’s productive partnership with Pfizer in our mutual effort to improve the quality of life for America’s veterans and their families. 


Working with a multidisciplinary panel of experts with support from Pfizer, I participated in a podcast to launch a Clostridioides difficile awareness initiative.

C. difficile is a bacterium that can cause a serious and potentially life-threatening infection and afflicts hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Its symptoms range from diarrhea to severe intestinal infection. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention links the C. difficile superbug to the deaths of 29,000 Americans a year.

C. difficile infection disproportionately affects older adults. More than 47 percent of America’s 19 million veterans are 65 years and older. Veterans have a higher risk of many diseases caused by exposure to Agent Orange and other comorbidities such as type-2 diabetes, hypertension, and cancers.

Antibiotics use is the recognized primary risk factor for developing C. difficile infections. Others may include:

  • Advanced age
  • Recent hospitalizations
  • A weakened immune system due to age and other comorbidities
  • Previous infection with C. difficile or known exposure to the bacteria

To learn more about C. difficile, go to www.cdc.gov/cdiff


VVA and VHC are grateful to Marissa Watkins, the Deputy Vice President for Advocacy and Strategic Alliances at the PhRMA Foundation, and Emma Berry, its Manager of Strategic Alliances, for their generous grant.

With their assistance, we are able to expand our outreach to veterans, their families, and our partners in the health care community. The grant will allow us to address barriers to health care, including Medicare policies, that affect veterans. 

The Veterans Health Council looks forward to continuing its involvement in the Partnership to Fight Infectious Disease and PhRMA’s Antimicrobial Resistance and Drug Safety Initiatives. We are committed to working together to address the Executive Order on drug pricing and importation of drugs.

The combined grants from Pfizer and PhRMA amount to $50,000. The pandemic has reinforced in each of us the importance of prevention as a means of protecting the well-being of our fellow Americans.




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