LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The Lexington VA Health Care System kicked off a three-day COVID-19 vaccination clinic for veterans ages 50 and up on Saturday.
The walk-in vaccine clinic follows the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ vaccine rollout plan. It does not follow Kentucky’s vaccine distribution plan, which is why vaccinations could be offered to groups outside of the state’s Phase 1a group, according to a VA spokesperson.
More than 1,500 Pfizer vaccine doses were administered to veterans between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., according to a spokesperson with the VA. The total number of vaccines in stock at the beginning of the clinic was not released.
Hundreds of veterans were lined up outside the Lexington VA Health Care System hours before doors opened. Many were also stuck in miles-long bumper-to-bumper traffic on the roads leading to the VA, including University Dr.
Massive traffic jams from all directions leading to the Lexington VA Healthcare System as they begins 3-day vaccination clinic for veterans 50 and older. @LEX18News pic.twitter.com/Hix7x8gLZP— Sofia Millar (@MillarNews) January 16, 2021
“I’ll be as happy as I can be when I get round one and round two. I’ll be tickled,” said Alexander Stewart, who drove into Lexington from Mason County for the clinic.
Inside, veterans were verbally health screened before being moved to the second floor where two separate vaccination areas were set up to receive up to ten people at a time.
VA staff asked those waiting outside to social distance, but many stood close together as the line wrapped around the building.
This is the line coming out of the front lobby. These are people who are not already registered to receive healthcare in Lexington. Those who are make up a separate line. @LEX18News pic.twitter.com/zRQvBJEVBi— Sofia Millar (@MillarNews) January 16, 2021
“I was hoping we would be a little more dispersed, but at least we are outside so that works in our favor. We are all wearing our masks and I’m thinking that should help too,” said Brian Freeman. “But I am thinking it is probably worth it to go ahead and get the vaccine rather than catch COVID.”
Some who reached out to LEX 18 News said they left when they saw how many cars were waiting to park. They said they didn’t want to risk being near a crowd during the pandemic.
However, others told LEX 18 News reporters they did not want to pass up the opportunity to be vaccinated.
“I’m 74-years-old and this virus likes people my age. I’m scared,” said Marty Jones about why he decided to wait for the vaccine.
“I really don’t want COVID. I have a lot of medical issues and I can’t really afford to get sick so I wanted to knock it out,” said Raynold Morgan when asked the same question.
At 1 p.m., the VA announced on social media they would be ending the vaccine clinic two hours sooner. The decision to end early was made to ensure vaccine supplies last all three days of the clinic, according to a VA spokesperson.
BREAKING: The vaccine clinic at the Lexington VA Health Care System will now end at **3pm**, not 5pm, according to their social media. More than 1,000 Pfizer vaccines have already been administered since the clinic opened at 9am today. @LEX18News pic.twitter.com/47eAhq8ZjL— Sofia Millar (@MillarNews) January 16, 2021
“Due to the overwhelming response to our vaccine clinic today we have closed the line early. Veterans already in line, will be seen, but we have cut the line off,” read a later update on Facebook.
Vaccine clinics on Sunday and Monday will take place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Veterans ages 50 and up are eligible to receive the vaccine through the VA. Veterans are asked to bring the VA ID. If you are not enrolled in VA care, you should bring your DD-214, a photo ID and your insurance card.