MONTGOMERY, Ala. – More than 50 Alabama Army and Air National Guardsmen were vaccinated last week in the first rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Alabama National Guard has begun administering the vaccine to members of the Guard and Department of Defense civilians on the pandemic's frontlines.
Senior Alabama National Guard leadership also lined up to get the vaccine to instill confidence in the vaccine for all service members.
Maj. Gen. Sheryl Gordon, Alabama National Guard adjutant general, was among the first to volunteer for the vaccine.
"I'm glad to be able to be a part of this," she said. "If we are down with COVID, we can't respond to disasters or civil unrest. We must maintain our health – physical, mental and spiritual – to ensure the health and safety of our citizens."
The Alabama National Guard provided educational materials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help members of the Guard and DOD civilians decide whether to volunteer for the vaccination. All were encouraged to speak with a medical professional to answer any questions.
Gordon encouraged members of the Alabama National Guard who are medically able to consider being vaccinated.
"The National Guard needs to be able and ready to respond," she said.
Gordon said she has full confidence in the Alabama National Guard's procedures to administer the vaccine.
The atmosphere in the drill hall-turned-immunization clinic was one of general excitement.
"I got vaccinated because I trust the science," said Staff Sgt. David Watts, assigned to Joint Force Headquarters in Montgomery. "It's good that we're finally able to start getting vaccinated. I don't want to go through what a lot of people have gone through contracting the virus. I take it very seriously. I want to do what I can to prevent it."
Alabama National Guard medics took courses provided by the CDC and the Defense Health Agency focused on the coronavirus, administering the COVID-19 vaccine, and safety protocols.
"This is just the first round of COVID-19 vaccinations," said 1st Sgt. Charles Perkins of the ALNG Medical Detachment. "The mission is to work jointly between the Army and Air National Guard to administer the vaccine to all 12,000 Guardsmen" (in the Alabama National Guard).
Those who receive the vaccination will return for a second and final vaccination in 28 days.
"I have weighed the pros and cons," said 2nd Lt. Whitney Hudson of the 161st Multifunctional Medical Battalion. "I trust the process. Soldiers need to get vaccinated to protect themselves because safety is our No. 1 priority."
Service members who have received the vaccine will still be subject to all COVID-19 command guidance and will continue to follow safety protocols, including hygiene, social distancing and wearing masks.