Veterans in Chula Vista Get 1st Doses of COVID-19 Vaccines

Veterans and Healthcare Workers at the Veterans Home of California Get First Round of Pfizer Vaccines.

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The mood on this Monday at the Veterans Home of California in Chula Vista is one of optimism. After months without visitors because of COVID-19, veterans in the skilled nursing wing, along with healthcare workers, began receiving doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. 

Marine veteran David Reinhart will celebrate his 85th birthday next week, making the shot in the arm he got Monday a real gift. He told NBC 7 he knows many people have suffered or died from COVID-19, “So at my age, I’m so thankful to even be here.”

The Veterans Home of California in Chula Vista closed to visitors 10 months ago because of the pandemic.

“We’ve been very anxious and excited for today you know we started fighting COVID since March,” said Veteran Home of California, Chula Vista Administrator Thuy Mascorro.

A large group of military veterans in San Diego County will be getting COVID-19 vaccinations Monday. NBC7’s Bridget Naso covers the military and has more on why it is so urgent.

While Reinhart who served in the Korean Conflict uses technology to keep in touch with family, this vaccine and booster will eventually open the door for face-to-face visits -- something Reinhart, a father of six, is really looking forward to.

“I miss a hug,” Reinhart said.

The veterans received the vaccine as part of the state’s partnership with CVS and Walgreens Pharmacies.

“I think it’s great,” said 80-year-old Army veteran George Marston, who also served in the Korean Conflict. “I don’t want to get the disease."

Some residents and staff at the Veterans Home of California in Chula Vista and at the other seven CALvet locations have tested positive for COVID-19. The organization declined to share exact numbers citing privacy issues but said no residents had died from COVID-19 at the Chula Vista location.

"It is really to me the light at the end of the tunnel," Dr. Robert Smith tells NBC 7 military reporter Bridget Naso.

The Veterans Home would not give NBC 7 the specific number of vaccinations that were administered but did say 75% of the healthcare staff elected to get the vaccine at this facility.

Annelyn Tan, a nurse instructor, explained the vaccine will give healthcare workers peace of mind as they care for their patriotic patients.

“We are more able to take care of the residents, and spend more time with them,” Tan said.

Later in the week veterans in the assisted living area will also begin getting their vaccines. The veterans and healthcare workers who received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will get the booster shot in a few weeks.

It may seem counterintuitive that using virtual reality to put veterans into scenes that replicate their trauma can help them overcome PTSD. But that’s exactly what’s happening with VR technology at the University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies. NBC Los Angeles’ Lolita Lopez went to USC to see how it works firsthand.

Reinhart said he did not hesitate to be one of the first inoculated because he trusts science,.

“I’m very proud of the fact that the country’s been able to find a vaccine in this short of time,” Reinhart said.

After months of sacrifice, these South Bay veterans are one step closer to victory in this part of the battle against COVID-19.

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