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COVID-19 vaccinations reaching smaller clinics, facilities

Military healthcare worker holding a vaccine needle Sandy Hughes, an Army nurse with the California Medical Detachment, draws a syringe with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for administration at the Presidio of Monterey medical clinic, California, Jan. 27. The Presidio is the administrator for vaccines to two smaller military installations as the DOD continues to push COVID-19 mass inoculations across the country. (U.S. Navy photo by Marcus Fichtl.)

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COVID-19 vaccinations are making their way through the military health system at installations both large and small in the most equitable way possible.

At a large military medical treatment facilities, such as Fort Bragg’s Womack Army Medical Center in North Carolina, inoculating troops with the COVID-19 vaccines is has been moving forward since mid-December.

At the Presidio of Monterey, the central California Army installation received two shipments of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 22 and began inoculations Jan. 27, said Army Col. Zack Solomon, commander, California Medical Detachment, director of Health Services, Presidio of Monterey.

The vaccinations were given at the Presidio and at the Military Oceanic Terminal Concord. “With these inoculations, we have nearly completed phase 1A” of the DOD’s immunization schema, Solomon said. Additional shipments will be used at Fort Hunter Liggett, in nearby Jolon, California.

The California Medical Detachment is located on the U.S. Army Garrison Presidio of Monterey. It provides care to approximately 7,000 enrolled patients and supports the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, U.S. Army Garrison Presidio of Monterey, the Naval Postgraduate School, Naval Support Activity Monterey, the Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center, and U.S. Coast Guard Station Monterey.

The ratio of inoculations at the facilities was 15% military and 85% Department of the Army civilian first responders and licensed health care providers, Solomon added.

“The transition at the Presidio in September 2019 to the MHS GENESIS electronic health records platform works very well when it comes to mass inoculations,” Solomon noted. ”The process of setting up and giving inoculations was very quick.”

“We conducted a shot exercise for Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center personnel Dec. 24,” explained David Mark, public affair officer for Naval Hospital Twentynine Palms. “These shot exercises have been ongoing. We’ve turned the MCAGCC west gym into a vaccination center.”

Meanwhile, other military facilities are using a combination of COVID-19 vaccines sent directly to them and local county vaccination efforts. Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command Lemoore in California and Navy Medical Readiness and Training Unit (NMRTU) Fallon in Nevada were sent the Moderna vaccine directly. They are using the Moderna vaccine due to cold storage limitations. (The Moderna vaccine needs to be kept at minus 20 degrees Celsius, as cold as a regular freezer, while the second currently-approved vaccine, from Pfizer-BioNTech, needs to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius.)

At NSA Monterey and NMRTU/Naval Medicine Administrative Unit Monterey, some personnel and beneficiaries have received the vaccine from the county while others are being vaccinated at the Presidio.

The pace of vaccinations should accelerate further as Food and Drug Administration approves newer vaccines for use. Recently, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine, which requires only one shot instead of a vaccine and a booster, was submitted for an emergency use authorization through the FDA.

That is important as the U.S. military and civilian populations now confront the more contagious COVID-19 variants from Great Britain, Brazil, and South Africa, making the need for fast immunizations of large populations that much more crucial.

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