WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — "It was exciting, it was nerve wracking, it was a long wait, but it was amazing,"said Israel Gonzalez, a teacher with Royal Palm Beach High School.
The line at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center was made up of veterans, aged 75 and older and veterans of all ages, who are also essential front-line workers.
"Our goal is to reach over 1,000 vaccines a day," said Julia Spence, assistant director at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center. "Our goal is really to deliver these vaccines as quickly as possible and ensure our veteran population is safe and healthy."
For Israel Gonzalez, a veteran and science teacher at Royal Palm Beach High School, his vaccine came much earlier than expected.
"It’s a real pleasure to know that I am considered an essential worker, because when you hear the word essential worker, you hear of firefighters police officers, but we as teachers we are essential workers. Our kids depend on us," said Gonzalez.
According the West Palm Beach VA Hospital, in addition to veterans over the age of 75, this weekend and Monday, they are targeting front line essential workers, who are also veterans and receive care at the VA.
Spence said that includes fire fighters, police and corrections officers, food and agricultural workers, postal, manufacturing, public transit, and grocery store workers. Not to mention, teachers and daycare staff. Veterans, who are not enrolled, must meet eligibility criteria, which includes income qualifications.
"We saw the lines this morning, and I called multiple nurses, they are all on their way," said Amber Thomas, chief nurse of operations at West Palm Beach VA Medical Center.
Darnell Williams, an air force veteran and behavioral tech, who works in schools said this is an emotional day.
"Camaraderie, being a veteran, and we were all talking keeping each other uplifted and telling stories laughing, but it’s serious trying to keep social distancing at the same time," he said.
It was also an emotional day for healthcare workers alike.
"Our veterans are excited, they’re not worried about the needle at all," said Thomas. "They are like please, please give me a shot. I never have seen such positivity in any action I’ve done here in 14 years."