'A super day': 500 veterans vaccinated against COVID-19 at Milwaukee VA walk-in clinic

’A super day’: 500 veterans vaccinated against COVID-19 at Milwaukee VA walk-in clinic

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Wisconsin veterans are getting the chance to walk in and get a COVID-19 vaccine this weekend at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.

There was so much interest on Saturday, Jan. 16, that a spokesperson for the VA told CBS 58 that staff had to cut off the line early in the morning. The VA is able to administer vaccines to 500 veterans each day from Jan. 16 to 18. 

To qualify, the veterans must be 65 or older. They also have to be enrolled with the Milwaukee VA or its community clinics in Green Bay, Appleton, Cleveland or Union Grove, according to a news release.

"It was a super day," said veteran Fred Ericksen. "All of these people served the nation with honor, and I think it's one of the best things they could have done for them."

"Why do you feel like this is important to you -- to get the shot?" CBS 58's Rose Schmidt asked Ericksen.

"Because I'm 85, and I'd like to keep on going," he said.

A long line of veterans was already waiting outside the VA when doors opened at 7:15 a.m. Saturday. No appointment was necessary.

"I think it's going very quickly. You had to be here early to get a ticket. In fact, if you were here at 7:30 you probably didn't get a ticket today," said veteran Glenn McCullough.

McCullough served in the Marine Corps. At 67, he said he's anxious to get back to his disaster response volunteer work with Team Rubicon.

"Anything that we can do to help other people not die I think we, as human beings, we have an obligation to do it," McCullough said.

The veterans said they were in "high spirits" and extremely glad the VA is giving them the opportunity.

"I hope the thing works, and we can get this thing stopped somehow," said veteran Don Moran.

Veterans who want to be vaccinated at the VA have to bring identification, wear a mask to enter the hospital, maintain social distancing and not be sick, including having any COVID-19 symptoms such as coughing or a fever. 

Veterans can park in the main parking lots and enter only through the East Entrance. They are asked to come alone unless they need help from a family member, according to the news release.

Moran's advice for other veterans looking to take advantage of the VA's walk-in clinic?

"Dress warm," Moran said.

And for those who are hesitant to get the vaccine, McCullough is encouraging them to think about others.

"Do you actually know what's in a Tylenol or Motrin? You take it anyway, don't you? I think we have to trust our medical establishment and the FDA," McCullough said.

The veterans who get the COVID-19 vaccine this weekend will need to come back in three weeks to get their second dose.

Those who already have a vaccination appointment time at the medical center or clinics should keep that time and not come to the walk-in event. COVID-19 vaccinations will continue after this weekend, by appointment, for enrolled veterans who are 65 and older. The Milwaukee VA will call veterans to schedule those appointments, according to the news release.

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