SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. – The 375th Medical Group began administering a limited supply of the COVID-19 vaccine today to first responders and healthcare workers as outlined by a Department of Defense distribution plan.
This plan establishes the prioritization of vaccinations for front line medical caregivers, mission essential caretakers, deploying forces, and members at the highest risk for developing a severe illness from COVID-19.
Personnel who are first to receive this initial, limited amount include military, civilians, contractors, students or other hospital non-clinical staff who support patient care or who have a high risk of exposure to COVID-19. Also included in the phase 1 category are those who provide critical national capabilities, those deploying to overseas locations, and other essential support personnel as identified by leadership.
Col. Richard Woodruff, 375th Medical Group commander, explained that the base will be distributing the vaccinations in an orderly manner and that it will be worked through unit leadership. Appointments will be allotted and personnel will sign up for their spots based on a fair share equity to ensure the limited supply is used appropriately.
As more vaccines are made available, the base will move toward phase 2 distribution for all high risk beneficiaries, and then phase 3 includes the rest of the healthy population, according to the DOD schema. This may take several months to receive and distribute he added.
“We do encourage every member of Team Scott to ultimately receive the COVID-19 vaccine as it becomes available to you according to the phase you fall under,” said Woodruff. “Right now we are working with a limited supply and will keep everyone posted on the process as we move forward. If you have any questions or concerns, please first work those through your chain of command so we consolidate the questions and answer them appropriately.”
Personnel who are able to receive the vaccine from an off-base provider are welcomed to do so, but it is recommended that those who are enrolled at a Military Medical Treatment Facility should go there for the vaccine as appropriate. All vaccinations are currently provided to those volunteering to receive it during each phase of administration. It is not a mandated health requirement at this time.
The DOD has stated that the COVID-19 vaccine is an advanced tool to reduce related illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths. The DOD also stated that the vaccines it has secured have been demonstrated to be safe and effective in large phase clinical trials, have shown to be manufactured and distributed safely and securely and have been authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use.
Throughout this and the immediate future, the practice of social distancing and wear of a mask will still be required. The CDC recommends following all local and national safety guidance in addition to being vaccinated to receive the highest level of protection from COVID-19.