NEWS | Jan. 5, 2021

Army Distributes COVID-19 Vaccine to Troops in Korea

By C.J. Lovelace U.S. Army

CAMP CARROLL, South Korea -- Teams at the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Center-Korea (USAMMC-K), working in collaboration with the Defense Logistics Agency, began receiving, storing and distributing the COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 25.

USAMMC-K, the theater lead agent for medical materiel, exercised its role under direction of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) leadership to track thousands of doses of the vaccine and ancillary support kits through customs and into the region.

USFK started inoculating military and civilian health care workers, first responders and command team members on Dec. 29, including USFK Commander Gen. Robert B. Abrams.

Teams distributed remaining vaccines and kits to joint forces at Camp Humphreys, Osan Air Base and Kunsan Air Base.

“From start to finish, the reception, storage, distribution and recovery of equipment was executed flawlessly,” USAMMC-K Commander Lt. Col. Marcus D. Perkins said. “The plan and timeline briefed to USFK and 8th Army was followed and executed without any required deviation.”

Perkins credited the efforts of Capt. Benjamin Lee, theater pharmacy consultant for the Korean Peninsula, and Maj. William J. Wiltbank, USAMMC-K’s deputy commander, for anticipating the mission requirements and ensuring the team was ready to go when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave emergency use authorization and vaccine shipments arrived.

The vaccine requires strict cold-chain management to keep transit and storage temperatures between minus-15 and minus-25 degrees Celsius at all times.

To prepare for the mission, USAMMC-K Soldiers took part in training on Dec. 15 to ensure proper operation of “freeze-cold” mobile cooling systems for storage and transportation.

“It is important to store and transport the vaccine between minus-25 and minus-15 degrees Celsius to prevent losing the vaccine’s effectiveness and potency,” Lee said.

The mobile freezers can maintain a temperature of minus-22 degrees Celsius, or minus-7.6 degrees Fahrenheit, for more than eight hours when batteries are fully charged.

“This was a whole-of-government approach in the distribution of this vaccine,” Perkins said. “I am just glad that our team got to play a part.”

Perkins said USAMMC-K Soldiers understood the mission’s importance, with one of them calling it, “a Christmas they would never forget.”

“I could see a sense of pride … across all of their faces,” Perkins added. “One of them said, ‘we are a part of history.’”