VA North Texas Health Care System, the second-largest health care system for veterans in the country, was among a few dozen Texas hospitals to receive COVID-19 vaccines this week.
Not only did employees get the first shots, so did some veterans who live there.
Frontline workers lined up at the VA in Dallas on Thursday to receive the first of two doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination.
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The first employee to voluntarily receive the dose was Army veteran Michael Bills, who cleans the hospital emergency department.
“I want to do it for my fellow people, especially for people of color because a lot of them don’t want to get it,” the EMS employee said. “I hope that they see that I get it and they would get it too.”
The second-largest system in the country is among 37 VA sites chosen for the first round of distribution, receiving nearly 3,000 doses.
“It’s an honor for me to the able to be the chief of pharmacy and be so involved in the distribution of the vaccine and not only the distribution of the vaccine, but a distribution of the vaccine to our nation’s heroes,” said Dr. Anquan Brown, PharmD, MBA.
Brown said North Texas VA isn't just prioritizing among its approximately 6,000 employees, but also among the first non-frontline workers to receive the vaccine.
Ten VA nursing home residents were vaccinated Thursday, beginning with Army veteran Richard Mundine.
The community living center resident at the Dallas VA Medical Center smiled and clapped after he received his shot to protect against the virus.
“With them [nursing home residents] being our most vulnerable patients, of course we want to make sure that we get vaccines to them as quickly as possible. And those caring for them routinely, we want to make sure they’re vaccinated as well,” Brown said.
He said the hospital has monitored employees and residents for side effects after they received the vaccine and, so far, "it's been good."
Brown joined area hospital leaders in pleading for the public’s trust in the vaccine.
“For our veteran population, our employees, I hope you understand that this is hope,” he said. “I hope that you do feel that you should get that vaccine because it will only help all of us.”
Vaccinations continued Friday and will include emergency room and intensive care unit staff members.
The hospital is not making the vaccines are mandatory.
Eligible residents are receiving the vaccine "in conjunction with their assigned medical providers," according to a spokesperson for the VA.