A Shot of Hope - VA Salt Lake City Health Care System
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VA Salt Lake City Health Care System

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A Shot of Hope

A nurse gets a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

Salt Lake City VA ER registered nurse Pam Makris gets a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday. Makris was the first employee at Salt Lake City VA to receive a vaccine

By T.S. Jarmusz
Wednesday, December 23, 2020

It was a moment of hope when they needed it most.

After months of waiting, health care workers at the Salt Lake City VA received an early holiday miracle Tuesday – in the form of 2,200 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

ER registered nurse Pamela Makris was the first employee to receive the vaccine.

In a former library converted to a vaccine clinic, Makris sat in a chair awaiting her moment in history.

But for Makris, it was more than just a shot.

It means no more sorrow-filled shifts of Veterans suffering, no more changing in the garage out of fear of spreading the virus to her husband and children, and no more unneeded deaths.

The vaccines arrived at 1:23 p.m. Calm and composed, Makris rolled up her sleeve, accepted the medicine.

Applause erupted from the small group of coworkers who witnessed the event.

“This is an epic moment for all our health care workers,” she said. “It has been a terrifying experience, but we’re moving forward, and it’s almost done.”

Special Delivery

workers prepare to administer Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine
Salt Lake City VA health care workers prepare to administer Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday. The medical center received 2,200 doses of the vaccine in its first delivery.

As part of Operation Warp Speed, a truckload of 22 boxes with 100 doses of the vaccine arrived Tuesday. 

Within hours, employees were vaccinated.

“Our goal is to provide the COVID-19 vaccination to all Veterans and employees who want to be vaccinated,” Salt Lake City VA director Shella Stovall said. “By vaccinating our high-risk personnel first, we can continue to care for our Veterans amid the pandemic.”

For Bruce Bilodeau, assistant chief pharmacy, the vaccine’s arrival was a relief.

“I’m very excited,” Bilodeau said. “It’s safe, it’s effective, and if we get enough people vaccinated, we can probably knock this thing right out.”

Employees will need to work 12 stations, logging 12-hour shifts to vaccinate VA’s goal of 200 people a day. But Bilodeau said protecting coworkers and Veterans was more than worth the effort.

For Makris, the vaccine means a return to normalcy.  

“It’s a step forward to resume our life as we knew it before the vaccine,” she said. “And most importantly, to help the Veteran population.” 

Throughout the medical center, there was a renewed energy – a certain feeling that employees hadn’t felt in a long time.

That feeling was hope.


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