Utah Veterans Receive COVID-19 Vaccine at Salt Lake VA Hospital

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah’s first veteran living in a long-term care facility received COVID-19 vaccines Monday in the George E. Wahlen Veterans Affairs Division in Salt Lake City.

It was a life-changing opportunity for Dana Hare, 39, who offered two tours in Iraq and is now undergoing a drug abuse program due to his post-traumatic stress disorder. He has been in the hospital for more than two months.

“I did not think I would be the first person,” Hare told KSL. “I want to start meeting people I know and love. I want to take off these masks and start meeting again.”

Hare said the isolation due to COVID-19 was difficult to handle.

“It was difficult, it’s already a symptom of our illness. We need interaction with our families – it’s one of the things that keeps us healthy,” Hare said.

It’s the same feeling for veteran Christian Smith, 41, who is also undergoing a drug abuse program to get his life back on track. He was the second person in the hospital to be vaccinated.

“I feel a little guilty. I’m 41. I think there are people older who need it,” Smith told KSL. He said that the isolation was also very challenging for him because he was trying to recover from his PTSD.

“It really affected my recovery and I immediately started struggling. It really hurt my recovery a lot,” he said.

Medical center administrators said it was a big day to get the doors open again for these veterans.

“It’s better than Christmas,” said Ashley Phillips, the primary care nurse at the medical center. “I want to be able to vaccinate all our veterans as soon as possible so that they can rejoin that society. We do not want them to be socially isolated at all.”

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