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Michigan’s first VA employees get their Pfizer shots


Nurses, housekeepers, and other frontline workers at the Ann Arbor Veterans Affairs hospital received their first doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday.

The Ann Arbor site was the only VA hospital in Michigan to receive doses this week and one of 37 in the U.S. — selected for their ability to vaccinate a large number of people and manage the Pfizer vials, which require ultra-cold storage.

ICU nurse Jessica Scaff was the first to get a shot. She also helped care for the hospital’s first COVID patient.

"We’ve been doing this since March now. It’s not new anymore," she said. "I mean, we’re tired. That’s why we’re so excited about the vaccine, like, hopefully those numbers will start coming down now, and we can get a little bit of relief."

The hospital’s leaders say many of their staff have been out sick with COVID recently, which has been the case at hospitals across the state.

Though case rates in Michigan are still high, they have been declining, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. So have hospitalizations. 

Another person who got a shot Wednesday was housekeeper Darris Deal. Deal, a Marine veteran, has been helping clean the hospital’s COVID unit since March.

“Honestly, I was little nervous, because obviously we don’t know 100 percent of everything that’s going on with the vaccine," he said. "But I’m also thinking, like, this is step one, this is step one to being back to normal.

“I love the Pistons, I love the Lions, and we haven’t been able to go to any games, and if this is step one to being able to go back and be normal again, I’m all for it.”

Dr. Mark Hausman, chief of staff at the Ann Arbor VA, says they anticipate another shipment within three weeks, which is when the FDA says people should get their second dose.

VA hospitals, which receive their vaccine allotments directly from the federal government rather than through their states, are also prepared to administer the Moderna vaccine when it becomes available.

An FDA advisory panel is considering this week whether to recommend that vaccine’s emergency authorization. 

Will Callan, a reporter for Michigan Radio, hails from the Bay Area, where he lived in Oakland and San Francisco and reported for local newspapers and magazines. He enjoys a long swim in chilly water (preferably followed by a sauna) and getting to know new cities. That's one reason he's excited to be in Ann Arbor, which he can already tell has just the right combo of urban grit and natural beauty to make him feel at home.
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