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Salt Lake VA Center Receives First Vaccine Shipment

A photo of the VA medical center building.
Renee Bright
The VA Medical Center in Salt Lake City received 2,200 doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, which will go to frontline health care workers.

The Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City got its first shipment of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday, which was approved for emergency use late last week by the Federal Drug Administration.

The 2,200 doses will go first to frontline health care workers, said Jill Atwood, communications director for the VA Rocky Mountain Network. She said they expect to vaccinate about 200 people a day over the next 11 days.

“We're really excited around here,” she said. “Everyone's busy, everyone's a little stressed, but it's a good stress.”

The first veterans to receive doses are still a few weeks away though. Health care workers will get the next shipment that comes for their second dose, Atwood said. A third batch — expected in four to six weeks — will then start going to about 6,000 high risk veterans in the region. They include veterans in long-term care facilities and those who are 75 years or older and have a chronic health condition.

And like the general public, she says the remaining 60,000 veterans who receive care from the VA can expect to get the vaccine by early summer. But it should be a smooth rollout.

“Veterans do not have to do anything,” she said. “You don't have to call us. You don't have to sign up. We will let you know when it's time to come in and get your vaccine. We're like a well oiled machine.”

In the meantime, Atwood says the VA Center in Salt Lake is continuing to care for veterans with COVID-19 and other illnesses. Their case counts have gone down recently, but hospital workers there are prepared to accept non-veteran patients if other state hospitals become overrun.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Utah Department of Health reported just over 8,500 people in Utah have been vaccinated.

Jon reports on quality of life issues, education and the economy
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