WWII veteran, 96, receives COVID-19 vaccine, becomes first VA patient nationwide to get jab

Margaret Klessens became the first VA patient in the nation to receive the jab

The first Veteran’s Affairs patient to receive the COVID-19 vaccine was a 96-year-old WWII veteran, according to the health system where she was treated. 

Shortly after noon on Monday, Margaret Klessens became the first VA patient in the nation to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, which received emergency use approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration late last week. The vaccine, which requires two doses given weeks apart, is the first jab to receive such approval in the U.S. 

Klessens was vaccinated at the VA Bedford Healthcare System, in Bedford, Mass., according to its Twitter account. 

The New Orleans and Bedford VA Medical Centers in Massachusetts on Monday became the first two department facilities to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to “frontline health care employees and Veterans residing in long-term care Community Living and Spinal Cord Injury and Disorder centers,” said the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in a statement. 

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The two cites are part of some 37 VA medical centers across the nation that began receiving and administering the jab this week, which were chosen for “their ability to vaccinate large numbers of people and store the vaccines at extremely cold temperatures,” which the Pfizer vaccine, in particular, requires. 

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“Ultimately, the department’s goal is to offer the vaccine to all Veterans receiving care at VA,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, in a statement. “As increased vaccine supply is obtained, VA plans to distribute these vaccines at additional facilities to provide the vaccine to more Veterans and employees.”