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First veterans in Salt Lake City's VA Hospital get COVID-19 vaccine sooner than expected
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Veterans in SLC VA Hospital get COVID-19 vaccine sooner than expected

(Sally Rich with the Salt Lake City VA Hospital administers the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to residential patient Dana Hare. Credit, Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY – Good news for veterans being treated at the VA Hospital in Salt Lake City as Administrators were able to start giving the COVID-19 vaccine to some high-risk veteran patients sooner than expected.

The first patient on the list of veterans to receive the vaccine was Dana Hare.  He served in the Army for 16 years, and was diagnosed with PTSD in 2012.  Since then, he has been struggling with drug addiction and has been living at the hospital for two months for treatment.

Hare says, “It has destroyed my family and taken my kids from me.  It has been an ugly and long fight.”

Hare won’t be able to go home for another two weeks, and COVID-19 has been one of his biggest concerns ever since he started treatment.  His immune system has already been weakened by the substances he took, so the disease could be especially dangerous for him.

“Coming through rehab, through a substance abuse treatment center, I was afraid I wasn’t going to have the immune system to fight it if I did catch it,” Hare says.

Hare didn’t know he would be getting the vaccine until the night before he received it.  Hospital staff called him to ask if he wanted to be the first vet in Utah to get it, and he jumped at the chance.  On Monday, four patients were given the vaccine and officials with the Salt Lake City VA say they were able to administer them because the CDC updated their guidelines.

Chief Nurse of Primary Care Ashley Phillips says, “We found a good mix of the amount of vaccines that we currently have that we can offer our veterans without impacting our ability to do business.”

Phillips says the hospital was far more efficient in administering vaccines than they thought they would be.  By the end of Monday, they expected to have given over 600 staffers the first dose of the vaccine.  She says they wanted to vaccinate their patients as quickly as possible.

“There’s ‘essential staff,’ ‘non-essential essential staff’ and, of course, our veterans which is our top priority,” according to Phillips.

Workers in the hospital compiled a list of all veterans and employees and were able to determine which people should get the vaccine first, based on their exposure to the disease and their co-morbidity factors.  Some low-risk employees haven’t been scheduled to receive the vaccine, yet.


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