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At-risk veterans vaccinated in pop-up clinic at VOC

Max Schulte | WXXI News
VA Finger Lakes Healthcare System nurse, Lisa Lehning, shows C.L. Scribling the CDC vaccination card he'll receive after his one-shot of the  Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. Veterans will also have the record of the vaccination entered into their electronic VA medical files.

Nearly 50 veterans received their COVID-19 vaccine -- the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shot -- on Monday at the Veterans Outreach Center.

While the pop-up clinic was aimed at reaching veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, not everyone who was vaccinated was homeless.

After getting his shot at the South Avenue center, Samuel Robbins had one question for the nurse: “When can I be around my grandkids?”

This past year has been rough, said Robbins, a former U.S. Army sergeant who served in Germany and Korea. Beyond the isolation, he also suffered a heart attack. 

Now, he’s got one thing on his mind. 

“It’s kinda hard on me not seeing the grandkids,” he said. “You know, I love my grandkids. We go fishing and stuff. So maybe I’ll get some time to spend with them now."

Credit Max Schulte | WXXI News
Samuel Robbins gives a thumbs up after before receiving the one-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at the Veterans Outreach Center in Rochester.

“I’m not scared now after the vaccine. I’m not really scared of going out, but I’ll still wear my mask and everything. It’s more freedom, I guess,” Robbins said. 

Veterans Affairs nurse Lisa Lehning reminded him that it’ll be about two weeks until the vaccine takes effect.

Lehning’s assisting the VOC with administering the vaccines. For many of the veterans she talked to, she said this is their first time in a group setting since the pandemic started.

“You really understand as you sit here and listen to everyone share their story, the emotional effect of the solitude,” Lehning said.


Credit Max Schulte | WXXI News
Samuel Robbins holds up a photo of his grand kids who he hopes to see and do some fishing with after he received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

More than 800 people are homeless on any given night in Monroe County, nearly 80 of whom are veterans, according to the VA. 

People who do not have a consistent address, or who live without reliable transportation, could be at greater risk of missing the window of time necessary to receive a second dose of a vaccine like Moderna or Pfizer.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Lehning said, ensures that anyone at risk of missing their second dose can still get inoculated against COVID-19.

“Regardless of which vaccine you choose,” Lehning said, “being vaccinated is the game-changer for all of us in the community.”

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