WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Indiana Veterans' Home is the latest long-term care facility in Tippecanoe County to experience a COVID-19 outbreak.
But officials are hopeful vaccines administered there Monday will bring an end to the concerning chapter.
Tamara Smith, director of admissions at the veterans' home, was the first in line to be immunized.
"I just felt proud as being one of the front members, getting on and getting our vaccine completed today," she says. "Anyone that can go out and get their COVID vaccine, I feel we all should do it. Just a duty to help others that can't fight for themselves."
One hundred and sixty-five staff members and 60 residents on Monday received the first round of the vaccine. The second round will take place Feb. 8 and Feb. 9.
Many other residents received antibody infusion treatments which make them ineligible for the vaccine until March.
"All the staff have put in a lot of hours, their blood, tears, sweat," Smith says. "We care for the residents here at the veterans' home like we do our family."
Forty residents have tested positive and six have died since Dec. 4, according to the Indiana COVID-19 dashboard, making the vaccine rollout crucial, says veterans' home Superintendent Joy Grow.
"I think we've all been working really hard this whole year and it kind of feels like we're maybe getting to that light at the end of the tunnel with that vaccine here," she says.
Grow says she's worked with the local health department on a weekly basis for guidance to control the spread.
"We're trying to properly cohort residents, keep positive residents away from healthy residents so that we can kind of contain and prevent that spread," she says. "And of course, we're focusing really hard on treatment, like, what can we do to make sure that the residents, that they recover?"
Dennis Wimer, director of the Indiana Department of Veteran Affairs, was on hand to receive his COVID-19 vaccine. He says the VA and the staff at the veterans' home have worked hard to understand best practices for infection control.
He says it's important to vaccinate those who have served, and those who serve them.
"We've done all of the things that we can and when it did hit here, it did like everybody else, it hit very hard, and they're doing everything they can to protect, to serve the veterans that are here and the staff that are here," he says.
Vaccinations began earlier this month at long-term care facilities across Tippecanoe County. As News 18 previously reported, these facilities were next in line for the vaccine after front line health care workers.