SALT LAKE CITY — The VA Salt Lake City Health Care System has opened its COVID-19 vaccination clinic to all veterans and their spouses for walk-in shots.
Officials with the VA said they were eager to help veterans get back to their best, normal lives.
The VA has been vaccinating eligible veterans and staff since Dec. 22, 2020, by appointment only. After Congress passed the Save Lives Act, the VA can now offer the vaccine to many more veterans.
"Just walk in and we'll take care of you," said Sally Rich, manager of the vaccine clinic. "We're super excited about the Save Lives Act, because we can vaccinate all veterans and their spouses, and that to us is huge."
On Friday, the clinic opened the vaccine to all veterans, their spouses and caregivers. They have begun offering first-come, first-serve walk-in appointments based on vaccine availability, Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.
"We don't want them to hurry up and wait anymore. We want them to get vaccinated and get on with their lives," said Marissa Schwed, administrative clinic manager.
Lisa Maze retired in 2020 after 20 years in the Navy. She was in the clinic Tuesday getting her second dose.
"I've just been waiting for the day to get it," she said.
Maze has been eager to get the vaccine because she knows how devastating the virus can be.
"It was just important to me because my dad passed away from COVID back in November," she said. "He missed getting this vaccination by not very long – a few weeks. Then my mom passed."
She was heartbroken that her parents missed out on the life-saving vaccine by just months.
"I was very adamant about getting in, getting my shot, and getting my family vaccinated, as well," Maze said.
We don't want them to hurry up and wait anymore. We want them to get vaccinated and get on with their lives.
–Marissa Schwed, VA Salt Lake City Health Care administrative clinic manager
She has urged others to do the same.
"You never think it's going to be you," she said. "You never think that you're going to be someone losing a parent. I'm 48, and I've lost my parents, I feel at a very young age, to something that could have been prevented."
Lynn Bybee, an Army veteran, got his second dose Tuesday. He's been getting his health care at the VA for years. It was where he wanted to get vaccinated because he said he trusts them.
"It means a lot," he said. "It's a relief of stress. I can relax more. I just feel a whole lot better."
VA officials expected the pace to pick up, saying the clinic can vaccinate more than 400 people each day with minimal waiting time.
"If they have any hesitancy, we're more than happy to answer those questions for them," said Schwed.
So far, the VASLC has administered nearly 25,000 doses to veterans and staff and said they're ready to do more as more vaccine doses become available.
"We want to get back to living our best lives," said Rich.