MARION, Ill. (KFVS) - The Marion VA Medical Center began distributing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, December 23.
Lyman Morris was the first Marion VA veteran to receive the vaccine on Wednesday.
He is an Air Force veteran and a former employee of the medical center.
Natasha Marshall, a charge nurse for the Marion VA Community Living Center, was the first employee to get vaccinated.
“Getting back to life is a bonus but protecting the ones that we love is what we need to do,” said Lesli Noto, a chemotherapy nurse at Marion VA Medical Center. “It didn’t hurt at all. No different than getting a flu shot. I feel fine.”
The medical center received 1,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine.
“Ready to get that little bit of normalcy back in everyone’s lives. Build up some immunity. Get life back on track,” said Noto.
“It was a historical moment for us to administer the vaccine to our first patient and staff, and it’s the first step in the battle against COVID-19,” said Todd Wright, public affairs officer. “In the past the war was fought against Nazi Germany and against Isis and the Taliban, but the new war is fought against COVID. And so a lot of our veterans feel that this is the continuation of the service to their country.”
Wright said they miss their patients, so he hoped the medical center can allow more people in the building soon.
“We love seeing our veterans in the halls and talking to them, and we want to get back to that. But priority one is getting everybody healthy,” he said.
“Starting the vaccine is not the end, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction,” said Noto.
According to Wright, about 150 to 200 people will be able to be vaccinated each day once the clinic establishes a routine.
The first shipment of vaccines arrived at the VA on Tuesday.
Pharmacy Chief Kevin McCree welcomed the UPS driver as he delivered the shipment.
“The Marion VA is eager to offer the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to health care personnel and our Veteran community living center and inpatient rehabilitation residents initially,” said R. Todd Wright on Tuesday. “Receiving the vaccine is like having hope delivered. As vaccine supplies increase, our ultimate goal is to offer COVID-19 vaccination to all veterans and employees who want to be vaccinated.”
The Marion VA is one of 113 VA Medical Centers across the country to receive the first limited supply of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
Sites were identified based on need for the vaccine.
That need was established by the CDC’s 1A prioritization and a site’s capacity to store the vaccine at -20 degrees Celsius.
The vaccine is distributed in two doses, 28 days apart.
They say the side effects appear similar to those of other vaccines and do not last long.
Even after receiving the COVID-19 vaccination, the VA said employees and veterans should continue wearing face coverings, practicing social distancing and washing hands often.
As vaccines become available for more groups of veterans, VA care teams will reach out to eligible Veterans to schedule vaccinations.
There is no need to preregister or come to a facility to sign up.
Veterans can click here for more information.
The VA launched the website on Dec. 11.