LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Robley Rex Veterans Affairs Medical Center has received its first doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

What You Need To Know

  • COVID-19 vaccines arrive at Robley Rex Veterans Affairs Medical Center

  • Several staff members received the vaccines Tuesday

  • VA has a little more than 1,500 doses on hand; vaccinations continue Wednesday

After months of fighting on the front lines, healthcare workers like Michael Haaker, health tech in the emergency department at The Robley Rex Veterans Affairs Medical Center, received a shot of hope.

“I’m not going to cry, but I want to cry. It’s been a tough 10 months for myself, my coworkers, I’ve lost people personally and professionally and this is light at the end of the tunnel,” Haaker explained.

The Army and Marine Corps veteran became the first healthcare worker at the center to receive the vaccine Tuesday afternoon.

“There’s people I love that I haven’t hugged in 10 months because of the job I do. I’m very humbled to be even chosen to be one of the first to get this,” Haaker continued.

Tuesday morning, distribution of the Moderna vaccine began just four days after the Food and Drug Administration gave it the green light for emergency use.

While Haaker wasn’t sure if he wanted to receive the vaccine because he was skeptical, he wants to reassure his patients and community.

“When they see that ER Mike got it, and I hope anybody would say, 'go talk to Mike, he got it' and that encourage them to go ahead and get it," he said.

The VA center has a little bit more than 1,500 doses on hand right now, a huge step toward ending the pandemic. Officials say the priority will be to administer doses of the vaccine to frontline staff.

Chief of Pharmacy Dr. Christina White told Spectrum News 1, "We have 32 doses of that we will be administering today. Tomorrow is a full day of employment vaccinations which is 120 doses a day."

Next in line to receive the shot is the most vulnerable patients. VA Medical Center Director Stephen Black explained why administering doses of the vaccine to Kentuckians who live in the facility is crucial.

“There’s really no better population to start with than our veterans, they deserve it. They’ve earned it. They have all gone to war, they have all raised their hand so we that we can enjoy our freedoms,” Black said.

Army veteran Brenda Moore was also vaccinated. The environmental tech and housekeeping worker chose to be one of the first to be vaccinated to protect her grandchildren.

“I do have grandkids that have a compromised immune system, they have sickle cell disease so I’m doing it for them also, I also have a six month old grand-baby,” Moore said.

These frontline workers are hopeful this attempt will bring some sense of normalcy back into their lives.

“It takes faith to get a miracle, i just want to get back some peace and serenity, some normalcy to our lives,” Moore said.

The center is one of 133 VA medical centers across the country to receive the first limited supply of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

Health professionals say next year they are planning a drive-thru distribution event to limit contact.