Vaccines given to LaSalle Veterans' Home residents, staff after 35 deaths

CHICAGO (WLS) -- COVID-19 vaccinations for residents at LaSalle Veterans' Home began Tuesday, while vaccinations for staff members started Wednesday.

It's the first step in the process at the LaSalle Veterans' Home. The interim administrator says residents and employees will continue to take all the necessary precautions to stay healthy.

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"This is a good week. We are finally able to get the vaccine here at the home," said Anthony Vaughn, LaSalle Veterans' Home Interim Administrator.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 35 residents have died from COVID-19 and there have been more than 200 cases among residents and employees.

"The staff was heartbroken that the virus got in here and the toll that it takes," Vaughn said. "Everything death is personal. These are our residents and veterans that they have been looking at after day in and day out."

Vaughn said it's not mandatory for residents or staff members to get the vaccine, but most have chosen to do so. The second dose will be given out next month.

RELATED: Illinois losing battle to save veterans from COVID-19 at state care facilities

"This isn't the time to let up right now," Vaughn said. "We have to maintain our diligence and trying to keep it out of the home and make it sure it doesn't spread."

The LaSalle County Health Department said in a written statement: "We are excited and hopeful as the vaccination process begins to roll-out in LaSalle County. While the vaccine is a step in the right direction, we need to continue our efforts to keep each other safe."

Vaughn started in this position earlier this month after the former administrator was terminated in response to the deadly outbreak at the home.

"The challenges that I face are just coming in and getting a handle on what the processes and procedures are that have been followed here and making adjustments where they need to be made."

Vaccines have now been administered at all Illinois veterans' homes, state officials said.
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