NEWS | Jan. 29, 2021

Connecticut Guardsmen start receiving COVID-19 vaccine

By Timothy Koster Connecticut National Guard

EAST GRANBY, Conn. – Soldiers and Airmen from the Connecticut National Guard who have been serving on the front line of the pandemic response began receiving the COVID-19 vaccine at Bradley Air National Guard Base Jan. 2.

Distribution of the vaccine was prioritized under guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including "those providing direct medical care, maintaining essential national security and installation functions, deploying forces, and those beneficiaries at the highest risk for developing severe illness from COVID-19."

Vaccinations were voluntary. Those who were vaccinated did not report any serious side effects,

"In over 35 years of being in the military, I've taken a lot of shots, and this was, without a doubt, the one that had the least effect on me. … There was no pain in my arm and no ill effects from it," said Brig. Gen. Ralph Hedenberg, chief of staff for the Connecticut National Guard. "This is our first opportunity where we can go on the offensive against COVID, and I encourage everyone to take the shot."

Some hesitate to be vaccinated because the Food and Drug Administration has not granted full approval for any of the COVID-19 vaccines currently available. Army Capt. Joseph Zell, a physician with the Connecticut National Guard, said that during a pandemic, the FDA can grant an emergency use authorization (EUA) for any vaccine if the benefits outweigh any possible risks.

"The vaccine's safety profile has been rigorously studied, and it outweighs the risk of a COVID infection," said Zell, who, outside of the military, works at Yale University studying occupational environmental exposures, specifically COVID-19. "The COVID-19 vaccine … has been deemed so much safer than the virus that the FDA has said, 'We're going to give this vaccine an EUA approval'; it's that important that we start putting it into our citizens."

Also, toward the beginning of the summer, after a polymerase chain reaction test – or PCR test – was developed, an initiative was created to test each Guardsmen for the virus whenever they entered or left state active duty and annual training.

The vaccine is the next step in defeating the virus. Still, until enough of the public is immunized, it's important to maintain the guidelines issued by the CDC to help stop the spread: Wear a mask, maintain social distance, and wash your hands.