JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Soldiers of the Alaska Army National Guard Medical Detachment hosted a COVID-19 vaccination drive Jan. 24, 2021, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) as part of ongoing efforts to vaccinate the force.
Dozens of Soldiers made their way to the JBER Armory’s drill hall floor by unit in order to facilitate social distancing and efficient administration of the vaccine, said Alaska Army National Guard 1st Lt. Jordan Gray, a registered nurse and Medical Detachment deputy director of clinical operations.
Kept in a frozen storage container, Medical Detachment medics removed one vial at a time containing 10 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine before pulling a single dose into a syringe and administering it to volunteer Soldiers who completed pre-immunization screenings.
According to Centers for Disease Control paperwork given to Soldiers at the vaccination site, the Moderna vaccine is being offered as a means to prevent COVID, which is caused by SARS-CoV-2.
“The Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine is a vaccine and may prevent you from getting COVID-19,” the paperwork says. “There is no U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved vaccine to prevent COVID-19.”
Gray said the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine – the only vaccine used by the National Guard owing to its relative ease of storage – was made available under an FDA emergency use authorization. The vaccine is administered in two doses at least 28 days apart.
The lieutenant said the ultimate public health goal of widely administering the vaccine is to reach herd immunity when enough people have immunity, and the virus can’t freely transmit within the population.
The Health.mil COVID-19 vaccine page says, “Drugs and vaccines have to be approved by the FDA to ensure that only safe and effective products are available to the American public. During public health emergencies, when there is good scientific reason to believe that a product is safe and is likely to treat or prevent disease, the FDA may authorize its use through an emergency use authorization, even if definitive proof of the effectiveness of the drug or vaccine is not known.”
In an advisory message to the force, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Place, director, Defense Health Agency, Falls Church, Virginia, said trials involving thousands of people showed the vaccine is safe and is about 95 percent effective.
“There’s still a lot we don’t know about the long-term effects of COVID-19 infections, but we do know this: the vaccine offers the best-known protection from those effects,” Place said. “As a physician, I recognize the decision to receive the vaccine is a personal one, and the department’s policy is very clear that taking the vaccine is voluntary.
“But here’s my advice,” the general continued. “I encourage you to learn the details of the vaccine’s safety profile. If you have questions, talk to your healthcare provider. For the huge majority of us, the risk of an adverse event from the COVID-19 vaccine is much lower than the short- and long-term risk of the disease itself.”
Gray’s advice echoed those of the DHA director.
“Do it,” he said. “It is as safe a vaccination as you have ever had. You can change your mind. Saying ‘No,’ now isn’t your last opportunity. We hope you change your mind, and we respect your decision if you don’t.”
To schedule a vaccine appointment, Guard members should coordinate through their chain of command. For questions about the vaccine, Soldiers can call the Medical Detachment at (907) 388-3109, 176th Wing Airmen can call (907) 551-7662, and 168th Wing Airmen can call (907) 377-8940.