‘Liquid gold’: First veterans at Orlando VA receive COVID-19 vaccine

ORLANDO, Fla. — The first vials of the coronavirus vaccine have arrived in Central Florida.

The Orlando VA Medical Center received almost 3,000 doses on Monday.

READ: Vaccinations begin at Florida long-term care facilities

Scott Wassmer, the nursing manager there who administered the first vaccines, is a veteran himself.

Wassmer said the ability to give other veterans this “liquid gold” and serve the people who served our country so selflessly was an honor.

“These are who deserve the most attention, and the most care, and most support,” Wassmer says.

The first person to get the Vaccine in Central Florida was U.S. Army Specialist Scott Nelson, a veteran now living at the Orlando VA.

20 of the facility’s 105 long-term care community residents already received the vaccine.

Wassmer said the veterans who live at the center have had rigid restrictions throughout the pandemic.

“They don’t have the mobility, they don’t have the transportation, they don’t have the ability to go out and see anybody,” Wassmer says. “For them to be a part of something that will allow them to gain their freedom back that they had before get some kind of return in words. It’s just that important to them.”

READ: Florida reports more than 11,500 new COVID-19 cases, 125 virus-related deaths

Dr. David Jones of the Orlando VA was one of the first healthcare workers to be vaccinated Wednesday.

So far, more than 2,000 VA staff members have signed up to get the shot, like Dr. Jones.

“I wanted people to see a black face. I wanted them to see a doctor. I wanted them to see a U.S. Army Veteran,” Dr. Jones says. “There was zero reservation in me taking nervousness. There’s no nervousness to this.”

Healthcare workers say getting the vaccine is a game-changer for them, as they continue to treat patients during the pandemic, but Dr. Jones won’t take the praise.

“We’re not heroes,” he says. “The whole country is heroes, and right now, we’re going to move forward as a country.”

READ: ‘We’re ready for it to come to an end’: First batch of AdventHealth frontline workers receive COVID-19 vaccine

Once the VA gets more shipments of the vaccine, their goal is to be able to offer it to all the veterans who receive care at the VA.

For more information on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs COVID-19 vaccination plan, click here.