Back to Top Skip to main content

DHA’s Vaccine Safety Hubs emphasize safety

Soldier filling a vaccine needle Staff Sgt. Jay Griggs, medical technician with the 911th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, prepares a vaccine at the Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station, Pennsylvania. Department of Defense issued vaccinations are used to prevent a variety of diseases that military members may encounter in the course of their duties. (U.S. Air Force photo by Joshua J. Seybert)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Immunization Healthcare | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

“It’s very, very easy to do vaccines wrong; it’s very hard to do it right.”

When Dr. Bruce McClenathan, medical director of the South Atlantic Region Vaccine Safety Hub for the Defense Health Agency’s Immunization Healthcare Division, teaches courses on vaccine safety, he often makes this statement to his students.

To do it right, according to McClenathan, is to know the exceptions to every rule and the nuances of delivering high-quality immunization health care. Within the Military Health System that job falls on the four regional vaccine safety hubs of the DHA, which are strategically located throughout the U.S.

“The vaccine safety hubs are designed to place immunization experts in the field and assist stakeholders with various needs; this could be recommendations on clinical care, education and training, answering questions on policy, providing recommendations on clinic operations, best practices, vaccine hesitancy, conducting vaccine research, etc.,” said McClenathan. “Our team helps with all things related to vaccines.”

A physician serves as medical director in leading each hub, which includes nurse practitioners, registered nurses, immunization health care specialists, education experts, and research assistants, as well as a hub administrator, each having various areas of responsibility.

Military personnel in a classroom setting
The Immunization Healthcare Division's Pacific Region Vaccine Safety Hub held a two-day Immunization Lifelong Learners Course at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County, California, on Sept. 2-3, 2020 for MHS healthcare professionals. (Photo by David Carbungco)

“For example, the South Atlantic Region Vaccine Safety hub, which is based out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, is responsible for taking care of CENTCOM, SOUTHCOM, and SOCOM, as well as the major commands on Fort Bragg proper, such as the U.S. Army Forces Command, the U.S. Army Special Operation Command, Joint Special Operations Command, and XVIII Airborne Corp. In addition, the hub supports the entire southeastern part of the United States,” he said. “If a stakeholder in any of these Commands or geographic areas has a question or concern about immunizations, we are available to assist and help resolve their issues.”

Behind the scenes, the regional vaccine safety hubs conduct training and quality assurance checks to ensure the delivery of a safe and effective vaccine to the patient. “If you go in to get a vaccine and everything is fine, that means we’ve done our job well,” said McClenathan. “All of the details that a patient doesn’t need to know about vaccines—but your clinic staff who provide it do have to know...we make sure folks are trained.”

While the military medical treatment facilities oversee and manage their day-to-day operations in patient care, such as ordering and managing vaccines, if they run into a problem, the regional immunization health care specialist is there to help. Recently, McClenathan and his team helped an MTF secure enough yellow fever vaccine just before a short-notice deployment of troops; they otherwise would have faced a supply shortage.

“We redistribute vaccines anywhere in the DoD and ensure they go where they are needed so that vaccines don’t go to waste,” he said, adding that by doing so, the hubs save the Department of Defense hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

Staff from the hub also support the 24/7 vaccine call centerline where clinic staff, patients and other beneficiaries can ask an expert vaccine-related questions.

“Our hubs are critical to the success of our organization and the DoD immunization program as a whole,” said McClenathan. “We are a one-stop shop for all things immunization so that those who do provide the immunizations can do their jobs competently, professionally, and to the standard of care, if not exceeding the standard of care.”

The majority of vaccines do not change frequently, with exception of the flu vaccine that is updated every year to adapt to new virus strains, but vaccine research is evolving, said McClenathan. For example, the Food and Drug Administration recently expanded approval of an HPV vaccine for men and women up to age 45 to prevent certain cancers and diseases; previously the maximum age was 26.

“As more data and research are completed and assimilated, the recommendations for use of a vaccine may change, even though vaccine itself may not be changing,” he said.

The regional vaccine safety hubs also contribute to the overall vaccine research community, especially as it relates to military health beneficiaries. The research topics can vary from genetics to vaccine adverse reactions to the efficacy of vaccines. McClenathan’s team recently completed a five-year clinical trial studying the impact of ibuprofen on a patient’s immune response to the flu vaccine. The results of the study will soon be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

“It’s really never been studied, especially in adults,” he said. “But we give a lot of ibuprofen and we give a lot of vaccines in the military, so we need to know if giving ibuprofen impacts how people respond to the vaccine.”

Currently, all four regional vaccine safety hubs within the DHA are participating in a major study, in collaboration with the federal government’s Infectious Disease Clinical Research Program to assess which form of the flu vaccine is most effective and providing immunity against the virus, whether egg-based, cell-based, or recombinant flu vaccine. “That’s going to be a pivotal study that will change not only which flu vaccine is given in the military but hopefully globally,” said McClenathan.

You also may be interested in...

AFHSD’s GEIS collect data worldwide to support force protection

Article
12/22/2020
Medical personnel scanning forehead of soldier with thermometer

AFHSD/GEIS continue work with partners across the globe in their efforts to combat COVID-19 and protect military readiness.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health | Coronavirus | Biological Surveillance Tools | Global Health Engagement | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

Military Health System encourages influenza vaccination for 2020

Article
12/21/2020
Military personnel giving patient a flu vaccine in her left arm

The CDC notes that COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than flu and causes more serious illnesses in some people.

Recommended Content:

Influenza, Northern Hemisphere | Influenza, Southern Hemisphere | Influenza Summary and Reports | Coronavirus | Public Health

Deputy defense secretary stresses team approach in battling COVID

Article
12/10/2020
Soldier wearing mask, standing at computer monitors in an office building

The Military Health System has played an important role implementing the National Defense Strategy, Norquist said.

Recommended Content:

MHS Transformation | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Health Readiness | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

USAMRIID scientist recognized by French for distinguished service

Article
12/4/2020
Two military officers on stage; one handing the other a certificate

Kugelman...identified genetic markers of persistence of the Chikungunya virus.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Research and Innovation | Technology

New report finds military hearing health is improving

Article
12/3/2020
Military doctor inspecting patient's ear

Noise-induced hearing loss is decreasing for active-duty service members.

Recommended Content:

Combat Support | Health Readiness | Hearing Loss | Hearing Center of Excellence Research Coordination Directorate | Hearing Center of Excellence

DGMC medical study looks at plant-based diet

Article
12/3/2020
Man wearing mask and gloves putting container of salad into salad bar

Researchers measured important cholesterol, weight and blood pressure markers at baseline and at 4-weeks.

Recommended Content:

Combat Support | Health Readiness | Nutritional Fitness

Seven MTFs recognized by ACS for surgical care

Article
12/3/2020
Military surgeons in an operating room

The MHS hospitals were among 89 recognized facilities and 607 total military and civilian hospitals participating in the program.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Quality and Safety of Health Care (for Healthcare Professionals) | Clinical Quality Management

Navy Corpsman helps maintain USS Albany readiness

Article
12/2/2020
Soldier wearing a stethoscope on a submarine

Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Matthew Carter is currently serving aboard Albany as an IDC.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

METC improves surgical tech training with new laparoscopy standard

Article
12/1/2020
Surgical team in operating room

A laparoscopy is a low-risk, non-invasive surgical procedure used to examine organs inside the abdomen and repair or remove tissue.

Recommended Content:

Combat Support | Health Readiness | Research and Innovation | Technology

BAMC recognized by American College of Surgeons for outstanding care

Article
11/27/2020
Medical team, wearing masks, rushing a patient in a hospital bed down the hallway

“BAMC provides more complex care to the nation than any other military treatment facility..."

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Combat Support | Clinical Quality Management | Quality and Safety of Health Care (for Healthcare Professionals)

Air Force doctor retires after 48 years of service

Article
11/20/2020
Uniformed officer standing next to an Air Force seal, wearing a stethoscope around his shoulders

In his civilian career, Thomas maintains a private practice as an anesthesiologist in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Health Readiness

WRNMMC displays the “Art of Healing” through December

Article
11/13/2020
Woman wearing mask, standing in front of several paintings

[T]he main focus of the exhibit was the art on display, and the artists behind it.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

Naval Medical Forces Pacific’s commander tours NH Twentynine Palms

Article
11/12/2020
Four military personnel in uniform, wearing masks

Weber was briefed on the implementation of MHS GENESIS...and the hospital's response to COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Combat Support | Health Readiness | Coronavirus | MHS GENESIS

Forging of civil-military anvil against COVID-19 focus at GHSA

Article
11/9/2020
U.S. and Thai soldiers stand together during a medical exercise.

“Defense partnerships around the world are key.”

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Global Health Engagement | Health Readiness | Global Health Engagement

Dental literacy brings smiles at Naval Hospital Bremerton

Article
11/5/2020
Two military health personnel wearing masks

"If you’re not true to your teeth, your teeth will be false to you." That old dental proverb is nothing to smirk about.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Health Literacy Month 2020
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 16 - 30 Page 2 of 7

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.