5 veterans in long-term care first to get COVID-19 vaccine in Orlando

Five veterans at the Orlando VA Medical Center were among the first in Orange County to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine since it was given Emergency Use Authorization by the Food and Drug Administration. 

“They were thrilled! Very high spirits, very excited! They were part of history and they knew it,” said Scott Wassmer, Nursing Manager. 

The youngest of the group is 65 and the two eldest are 92.  They all live in the assisted living facility at the VA in Lake Nona.  Wassmer said all five men are doing just fine after getting their first dose.

“They were extremely eager to get this vaccine. They were extremely appreciative,” Wassmer said.  “There was no initial pain, very very minimal, during the 30 minute observation period to make sure they didn’t have any reactions. There was no complaint of any reaction, no pain. All of the vets didn’t feel any discomfort at all.”

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When Wassmer checked on the five late Tuesday morning, all were feeling fine. 

The doctors and nurses who spoke to FOX 35 News via a video conference said time their planning and practice for the COVID-19 came in handy in getting them prepared, and that time is of the essence with this vaccine. 

Each vial has enough vaccine to administer to five patients.  After taking the vials out of the freezer, it takes 30 minutes to thaw from the sub-freezing temperature in which it is stored.  After it’s thawed it's mixed with saline, then it must be given to a patient within six hours. 

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“That’s probably one of the key differences between this vaccine and say the flu vaccine. Many folks are used to walking into Publix or Walgreens and saying you want a flu vaccine. This is not the case. Because it's so new and such strict guidelines follow we really do need to schedule staffing and veterans for this,” said Dr. Chris McCrea, Orlando VA Healthcare Center’s COVID Vaccine Coordinator.

The Orlando VA Healthcare Center was expected to vaccinate a total of 15 patients in its long-term care facility.  Wednesday, they will begin vaccinating staff.

If you are a veteran and VA patient interested in getting the vaccine from your area VA, visit the VA's COVID website.


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