BOSTON – As members of the community arrive at the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center to receive their COVID vaccinations, they are greeted with a smile by members of the Massachusetts National Guard.
A team of medically trained Guard members, known as “Kilo Team,” is there to help with the commonwealth’s COVID vaccine rollout. The team is one of several supporting vaccination sites across Massachusetts with additional staff.
At the East Boston site, they have been welcomed with open arms.
“The reception that we are getting from the folks coming in here has been unbelievable,” said Master Sgt. Michael Petrilli. “They are very glad to see folks in uniform.”
Petrilli is Kilo Team’s officer in charge and the senior health care specialist for the 26th Movement Enhancement Brigade. In his civilian career, he is a firefighter and a qualified emergency medical technician.
The team he leads consists of 10 Soldiers and one Airman from the Massachusetts National Guard. They are all either combat medics, health care specialists or aerospace technicians. Many of them also have civilian medical backgrounds.
Assisting in the mission is a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) team, which decontaminates the clinic as the members of the community pass through the well-organized setup.
Once community members receive their vaccine, they are required to wait in a separate room for 15 minutes to ensure there is no adverse reaction.
“The patients are very, very happy,” said Petrilli. “Some of them are nervous, obviously, coming in, because of what to expect. But after they have waited their 15 minutes and seeing that all of the Soldiers are very professionally medically trained individuals, it puts them at ease.”
Petrilli noted there was additional support for vaccine recipients if needed.
“If they have any questions, we are able to answer those questions, and if not, we do have a doctor or a nurse practitioner on-site that’s able to answer those questions,” said Petrilli.
After a year of lockdowns, mask-wearing, and news about the pandemic, Petrilli said being able to assist community members has been a positive experience.
“The relief and excitement from these folks that are coming in to get their vaccines, whether it’s their first, or now their second ones because they are eligible, it’s a great mission for these Soldiers to get out to do good in their communities,” Petrilli said.
He noted the unique opportunity of this mission for his team.
“We are all in the Mass. Guard, and it’s been great to see us coming from all over, whether they are infantry working on the line, working at the 182nd Medical Company, the 26th MEB, we are all coming together for that common task.”