PORT HUENEME, Calif. – California National Guard medical facilities across the state are scheduling military dependents for COVID-19 vaccinations.
Dependents over the age of 18 registered in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) are now eligible to schedule vaccination appointments.
The 146th Medical Group (146 MDG) is vaccinating dependents with the initial shot of the two-dose Moderna vaccine at Channel Islands Air National Guard Station.
Lt. Col. Nicole Christiano, 146 MDG flight doctor and full-time medical provider, said the number of people scheduling vaccinations through the wing's website increased significantly after the announcement.
"We got the word out last Sunday, and by Monday, we already had over 45 individuals requesting scheduling," said Christiano. "That number has only doubled every single day since the announcement, and we plan on ramping up our operations to ensure we continue to meet the state's expectations."
Christiano said the scale of vaccination operation is unprecedented for smaller military medical facilities like the 146 MDG. Within days, the group overcame multiple logistical hurdles, including finding available technicians to administer the vaccines.
"Most of our medical technicians are out supporting other COVID-19 missions across the state and have been for several months," she said. "We have more than 50 percent of our Airmen currently out on mission right now.
"Doing more with less has always been a hallmark we pride ourselves on, which in this case was no exception. Luckily, I have two fantastic team leads, Senior Master Sgt. Jason Stroh and Tech. Sgt. Abraham Virata, who helped innovate new ways to improve logistics and really streamline our processes."
Another challenge was contacting military dependents.
"It's easy for us to get in touch with our service members to come in to receive vaccines; it's something that we do regularly as a part of our mission. However, it's a bit of a challenge notifying their dependents since we don't have contact information for them like we do our members. That took a little bit of finessing, but we've all pulled together and got the support staff we needed in true Guard fashion," Christiano said.