In the News

Sen. Jerry Moran on hand as Dole VA receives COVID-19 vaccine for staff, local veterans

KWCH | Grant DeMars

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) was in Wichita Wednesday (Dec. 23), checking on local hospitals’ handling of the COVID-19 vaccine. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are in Wichita. Wednesday morning, the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center received its shipment of the Moderna vaccine. Moran was there to help unpack the doses.

“We’re going to be monitoring, encouraging, riding hard on the VA to make sure those vaccines are available to veterans across Kansas,” the senator said.

The VA hospital in Wichita received 1,000 doses on Wednesday.

“We are eager to offer the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to our health care personnel and community living center residents,” said Candace Ifabiyi, Dole VA Medical Center Director. “Receiving the vaccine is like having hope delivered. As vaccine supplies increase, our ultimate goal is to offer COVID-19 vaccination to all Veterans and employees who want to be vaccinated.”

Dole VA ICU nurse Bart Ridder, who cared for the hospital’s first COVID-positive inpatient in March, received the first vaccination at the hospital.

“Hopefully, this is one of the first steps towards getting back to a normal life,” Ridder said. When asked how he felt about being the first employee of the Dole VA to be vaccinated Ridder continued, “I’m glad. We’ve been exposed to COVID patients every day since this all started so I’m happy to be the first.”

Moran said vaccinations for VA staff and some of the veterans in their community-living center began Wednesday afternoon.

The hospital’s first veteran to receive the vaccine was, 96-year-old World War II veteran Bruce Watson, the last World War II veteran in the Dole VA’s community living center.

While in Wichita, Moran also toured Wesley Medical Center where more than 1,900 frontline workers have been vaccinated so far since the Pfizer vaccine arrived last week. Moran said he’s looking for ways the federal government can help with vaccine distribution. Among them is congress’s new stimulus package.

“The largest chunk goes to state government for the purpose of helping states across the country get the vaccine to its citizens,” Moran said.

Most Kansans would also get $600 checks, but President Trump said that’s not enough, which is a big part of why he’s voiced opposition to the bill.

“I do think the president is right. I’m for more assistance for more Kansans,” Moran said. ‘But I hope that’s done in a separate piece of legislation so that nothing slows down the progress, or capabilities that are now there as a result of passing that legislation.”

The senator said the second relief bill should have been passed months ago, but expects more legislation to be considered after President-Elect Joe Biden takes office. In Kansas, Moran said the goal is to get the vaccine spread across the state quickly and to make sure that there is enough that all Kansans have the opportunity to get it through their doctors or pharmacies. It could be months before that happens.