When Vietnam Veteran William O. Smith, Jr. arrived at the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center in Shreveport, Louisiana, for a regular medical appointment Feb. 3, he did not expect anything out of the ordinary.
To his surprise, the staff greeted Smith with balloons, flashing cameras (pictured above), media interviews, a gift basket and a special certificate presented by the medical center director.
Why the fanfare? Because Smith was the 5,000th person to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the facility.
“I was really surprised,” said Smith, who was drafted in 1967 and served in Vietnam as an artilleryman. Smith was a sergeant when he left the Army in 1969.
“I couldn’t hardly believe it when they told me I was the 5,000th vaccine given. I’m so proud of that. I hope all Veterans will come on and get their shots.”
Glad to roll up his sleeve for the vaccine
The Army Veteran and his wife, Joyce, live about 70 miles from Shreveport. With regularly scheduled appointments on the books, it is a trip they have made dozens of times. This time, he was glad to roll up his sleeve for the vaccine.
“It’s important for people to know how important it is to get the vaccine so we can help put an end to this pandemic,” said Smith.
The 5,000 vaccines distributed at Overton Brooks VA Medical Center includes hospital staff and Veterans. The hospital began distributing the Moderna vaccine on Dec. 22. Since then, nearly 800 hospital staffers and 4,200 Veterans have been vaccinated.
The importance of getting vaccinated
“We all recognize the importance of getting vaccinated and battling this pandemic that has wreaked havoc in all of our lives,” said Chief of Staff Dr. Sevetri Moore-Guillaume. “As we go forth, these criteria will increase so we will be able to administer even more.”
The Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine is a two-shot immunization. The shots are given one month (28 days) apart, and in the muscle of the upper arm.
Veterans are contacted by phone by VA staff to arrange for an appointment.
Mark Woodall is a public affairs specialist at the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center.