AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — Inside the doors of the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center, nurses are busy administering potentially life-saving doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. The hospital wasted no time opening its vaccination clinic. The first shots were given out just hours after doses were delivered. Hundreds of veterans and hospital employees were vaccinated in less than a week. The vaccine is giving healthcare workers, like Rachel Pearce, the tools to continue fighting on the front lines.
“A lot of our patients are in the at-risk community,” she says. “It’s nice to have the opportunity to get the vaccine so we can help keep our patients safe.”
The Augusta VA’s 10-room clinic was just an idea months ago. Employees in several departments worked together to bring it to life when Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine was approved.
“When we found out we were getting the vaccine, we had no shortage of staff volunteering to take over the clinic,” Robin Jackson, the director of the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center, explains.
Healthcare workers are moving quickly to vaccinate as many people as possible. COVID-19 hospitalization rates are rising throughout Augusta, including at the VAMC.
“We have seen the number of our inpatient COVID-19 numbers rise, as well as outpatient cases.”
The Augusta community is not the only group the VAMC’s staff is concerned about. Many veterans are homeless or unable to travel to the hospital to get vaccinated. VAMC’s vaccine coordinator, Dr. Crystal Cha, hopes to bring the vaccine to them.
“We have plans prepared to mobilize,” Cha says.
The VAMC has clinics in Athens and Statesboro, Georgia as well as Aikens, South Carolina. It will not be easy to transport the vaccine to those locations. But, the Moderna vaccine is offering some hope this can be accomplished. It does not need to be stored at extremely cold temperatures, unlike Pfizer-BioNTech’s.
“We do have a plan to get to every single person when we can,” Jackson says.