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Jesse Brown administers COVID-19 vaccines to veterans

On Saturday, January 9, Jesse Brown Veterans Affairs Medical Center (JBVA) staff members, Chief of Pharmacy Services Dr. Richard Rooney, Hospitalist Dr. Natasha Nichols from the Department of Medicine Services, and Emergency Management Specialist Mike Lackey, joined the America’s Heroes Group radio show to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine.

Jesse Brown received the COVID-19 vaccine on the morning of December 22 and began administering the vaccine that afternoon. Since then, Jesse Brown has administered more than 1,400 doses to high-risk veterans who are patients at Jesse Brown, as well as Jesse Brown employees. The VA is following vaccine priority guidelines set by the CDC.

Jesse Brown established a vaccine clinic in the medical center to administer the vaccine. This process has proven to be efficient and effective, according to Lackey, who oversaw a similar clinic for a different vaccine at a public university.

“We are confident that we will be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine to every veteran who wants it as more vaccine becomes available,” said Lackey.

The vaccine being administered at Jesse Brown currently is the Moderna vaccine. It has been proven safe and effective in clinical trials. There have been very few reported cases of side effects and those cases have been with mild effects.

In addition to the clinical trials for this vaccine, an independent panel of 24 physicians reviewed the findings of the trial and determined that the vaccine is safe for use and effective against COVID-19, according to Rooney.

“It may seem like this vaccine was rushed in development, but the fact is that the technology behind the vaccine has been available for many years and has been used in other ways, like treating cancer patents,” said Rooney. “We want to let people know that this vaccine is safe.”

The COVID-19 vaccine does not contain any amount of live virus. Instead, the vaccine contains a “cheat sheet” called mRNA that gives instructions to the body on how to make the product, a spike protein, to fight COVID-19, according to Nichols.

“Our bodies use these cheat sheets every day telling our body to make things like blood cells and hair cells. The vaccine uses this same process,” said Nichols.

Once the body has the instructions to make the spike protein, the body’s immune system is then able to act like a “fight squad” that is trained to fight off the coronavirus. With the vaccine, the immune system is not caught off guard if the body comes in contact with the coronavirus and can mount a stronger fight.

“This allows the body to not get COVID-19 at all, or a milder case of it,” said Nichols.

As more doses of the vaccine become available, the VA will reach out to veterans by phone and by mail to let them know that they are able to get the vaccine, if they wish. As more doses of the vaccine are made, veterans can visit to get more information on the guidelines of who will get the vaccine first, based on risk factors, the safety of the vaccine, and the option to sign up to receive more information about the vaccine as it becomes available.

About the Jesse Brown VA: Jesse Brown VAMC, located near downtown Chicago consists of a 220-bed acute care facility and operates four community-based outpatient clinics in Auburn Gresham, Lakeside, Chicago Heights, and Crown Point, IN. Jesse Brown VAMC provides care to enrolled veterans who reside in the City of Chicago, Cook County and six counties in northwest Indiana.

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