LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Kentucky National Guard commenced Operation Fortified Guardian this month, vaccinating hundreds of Army and Air National Guard members with the COVID-19 vaccine.
More than 600 vaccines were administered to Army and Air Guardsmen the weekend of Oct. 15-17. As of Oct. 18, approximately 70 percent of the force had received their first vaccination and 58 percent had received their second vaccination.
The secretary of defense has ordered all service members to be vaccinated. Members of the Air National Guard must be vaccinated by Dec. 3, 2021, while Army Guardsmen have until June 30, 2022. Service members may request an exemption for religious, health or administrative reasons.
"The purpose of the vaccine is to prevent serious disease," said Kentucky Army National Guard Sgt. Alecia Shultz, a 617th Military Police Company combat medic and medical noncommissioned officer for the COVID-19 mission. "This affects overall readiness and effectiveness for our troops and their units."
Army Lt. Col. Mark Demuth, state surgeon, has assured Kentucky National Guard members they will be thoroughly screened for contraindications before receiving the vaccine. His team of physician assistants and combat medics are well versed in the benefits and risks of the vaccine. The Office of the State Surgeon is available to service members to answer any questions about the vaccine.
"The COVID-19 Delta variant is targeting our unvaccinated Soldiers and Airmen," said Demuth. "Sadly, across the Guard nationwide, we have already lost 10 service members due to COVID. As a force, we cannot afford another tragic loss."
The Kentucky National Guard will continue administering the vaccine until all service members are protected against COVID-19.
In addition, the Kentucky Guard has a presence in 20 hospitals across the commonwealth to support the fight against the pandemic, with more than 300 service members still on duty.