NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Hundreds of U.S. military veterans received their COVID-19 vaccine at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System, and many veterans were excited to be among the first to get it.
“I was looking forward to this,” said Gerald Brown, a Vietnam War Army veteran.
About 430 local military veterans received their vaccine, totaling about 3,143 inoculations since the vaccine arrived to the VA hospital in December. Some veterans getting their dose said it’s the least they can do.
“I guess always first to serve,” said Navy veteran Norman Flattmann. “I figure if everybody gets one, then we can get rid of these masks!”
Army veteran John Reese said the vaccine couldn’t come soon enough.
“I felt like it needed to be done from the beginning,” said Reese. “I never was saying I wasn’t going to come get it; it wasn’t a thought of mine to not come and get it. I was so glad that they came out and got it done.”
Dr. Caitlin Martin Klinger, Deputy Chief of Staff at the New Orleans VA medical center said the interest in the vaccine is out there. So far, almost 13,000 veterans have shown interest-- a majority already scheduling their appointments.
“We’re trying to get it out as fast as we can so we can move through all of those groups as quickly as possible,” she said.
Klinger said the VA center is lucky to be one of the centers receiving the vaccine, and said about every two weeks the center receives a shipment of 975 doses.
“It’s really wonderful to see especially some of our oldest WWII veterans come in and get vaccinated,” she said. “To know that this is a safe vaccine and that this is going to protect them is really important for us.”
And important to those who served our country.
“I want to be an example for them and everybody else you know,” said Reese.
“I’m gratified that so many of us, my comrades, are taking the vaccine and they’re taking it with enthusiasm and this is the way we help out country,” said Brown.
According to Dr. Klinger, the next step at the VA is to increase the number of vaccines they administer, move through all of those who identify as high-risk, then begin scheduling some of the younger veterans. After that, they hope to bring the vaccine to veterans in outpatient care centers outside the city in more rural areas.
She said veterans over the age of 70 can call the VA hospital’s main line to schedule an appointment to receive the vaccine.
Veterans interested in the vaccine can contact VA at 1-800-935-8387 extension 72819.
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