Hines VA Hospital administers first COVID vaccine to veteran; officials hope to use initial doses on staff, long-term residents

HINES, Ill. (WLS) -- The Hines VA Hospital gave its first COVID-19 vaccine to a veteran in its care Tuesday afternoon.

The Hines VA Hospital was one of 37 VA medical centers in the country and the only one Illinois to receive early doses of the vaccine, according to officials from the federal government.

Army veteran Melissa Ann Klocker, 48, became the first long-term care resident in Illinois to be vaccinated.

Klocker served in Kosovo as a sergeant and a mechanic for Black Hawk helicopters. She was paralyzed in a car accident and now receives long-term care at Hines.

Klocker said it was an honor to be among the first to be vaccinated.

RELATED: COVID-19 outbreak at Illinois Veterans Home in LaSalle leaves 33 dead

"We all have to take our part to help stop this pandemic that's going around. This is just another responsibility that I have, as each and every person has, to try and help stop this so that we can continue moving forward," Klocker said.

"I think the message is, you know, service to country. Step up, get it done and let's move on, and she's certainly a role model of that today," said James Doelling, Director at Hines VA Hospital.

Veterans have been high-profile victims of the COVID-19 pandemic, including those at the state-run LaSalle Veteran's Home, where more than 30 residents died from COVID-19.

The officials at the Hines facility run by the federal government hopes to use the initial 3,000 doses received to inoculate staff and the more than 100 other long-term care residents.
Copyright © 2021 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.