COVID-19 vaccinations begin at Milwaukee VA Medical Center

The Milwaukee VA Medical Center gave its first COVID-19 vaccine dose to a nurse working on the pandemic's front lines Wednesday, Dec. 16.

The staff members who volunteered to be first in line for the vaccine said they have seen firsthand, on many occasions, the effects of COVID-19 on patients. They have experienced a lot of loss, but Wednesday they said they feel hope.

"I feel really great about it," said Katherine Matz, a clinical nurse specialist who works in the VA's COVID-19 unit. "We’ve been waiting for this for a long time and I’m excited to be one of the first in Wisconsin to get it."

Matz was the first VA staff member to get a COVID-19 vaccine that was recently approved for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. She volunteered for it, hoping to change the tide.

"It’s really been difficult to work within this pandemic," Katz said. "I’m doing it for my own health. I’m doing it for the health of my community and doing it so I can see my family again -- get things back to normal."

Zablocki VA Medical Center

The Pfizer shot was also given to four other VA employees on Wednesday. It and other hospitals are only just beginning to dole out thousands of doses of the first shipment of vaccinations in the area.

"The vaccine should be easily available in pharmacies, doctor’s offices, hospitals," said Dr. Jane Dus, regional chief nursing officer with Advocate Aurora Health.

Advocate Aurora Health experts said Wednesday, with more vaccines headed our way, they expect everyone to have access in early 2021.

Staff receives a COVID-19 vaccine shot at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center

"There are a couple more vaccines in late-stage development. There’s one by Johnson & Johnson and one by AstraZeneca," said Dr. Robert Citronberg, executive medical director, infectious disease and prevention with Advocate Aurora Health. "We may have those vaccines by late winter or the spring, so there should be a pretty good supply of vaccine available in the U.S. come spring time."

Matz said she is one of the lucky ones who has not had COVID-19, and she is not worried about possible vaccine side effects. She's only worried about giving her patients the best care possible.

"I understand that I may have a little bit of pain in my arm, I may have a little bit of fever," Marz said. "I'll certainly take that over getting COVID and becoming a patient in hospital beds similar to the ones I work next to."

Nearly 3,000 more COVID-19 vaccinations are ready to go in freezers at the VA facility. They will be distributed to more employees starting Thursday as well as to veterans with vulnerable health conditions.

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