JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska – Soldiers of the Alaska Army National Guard Medical Detachment hosted a COVID-19 vaccination drive Jan. 24 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson as part of ongoing efforts to vaccinate the force.
Dozens of Soldiers made their way to the JBER Armory’s drill hall floor by unit to facilitate social distancing and efficient administration of the vaccine, said Alaska Army National Guard 1st Lt. Jordan Gray, a registered nurse and Medical Detachment deputy director of clinical operations.
Medics removed one vial at a time containing 10 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from a frozen storage container before pulling a single dose into a syringe and administering it to volunteer Soldiers who completed pre-immunization screenings.
Gray said the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine – the only vaccine used by the National Guard owing to its relative ease of storage – was made available under a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emergency use authorization. The vaccine is administered in two doses at least 28 days apart.
The lieutenant said the public health goal of widely administering the vaccine is to reach herd immunity when enough people have immunity, and the virus can’t freely transmit within the population.
In an advisory message to the force, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Place, director, Defense Health Agency (DHA), Falls Church, Virginia, said trials involving thousands of people showed the vaccine is safe and is about 95 percent effective.
“There’s still a lot we don’t know about the long-term effects of COVID-19 infections, but we do know this – the vaccine offers the best-known protection from those effects,” Place said. “As a physician, I recognize the decision to receive the vaccine is a personal one, and the department’s policy is very clear that taking the vaccine is voluntary.
“But here’s my advice,” the general said. “I encourage you to learn the details of the vaccine’s safety profile. If you have questions, talk to your health care provider. For the huge majority of us, the risk of an adverse event from the COVID-19 vaccine is much lower than the short- and long-term risk of the disease itself.”
The DHA director agreed.
“Do it,” Place said. “It is as safe a vaccination as you have ever had. You can change your mind. Saying ‘No,’ now isn’t your last opportunity. We hope you change your mind, and we respect your decision if you don’t.”