Wright-Patterson gets first COVID-19 vaccine shipment

Base leaders say they have prepared for this moment

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base achieved a crucial milestone in the battle against the coronavirus as base medical staff started administering the COVID-19 vaccine Monday.

Wright-Patterson received its first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine shipment and began administering the vaccine to Air Force medical staff and first responders, the base said late Monday.

It’s the first phase of vaccine distribution, said Col. Christian Lyons, commander of the 88th Medical Group at Wright-Patterson. Those receiving the vaccine first will include health care staff, first-responders and security personnel, he said.

“Then we’ll start to expand the distribution based on the Department of Defense schema that lists the appropriate distribution for the COVID-19 vaccine,” Lyons said in a video the 88th Air Base Wing posted on its Facebook page Tuesday.

That “schema” or plan will direct distribution next to other essential support workers and critical personnel before moving on to high-risk health care beneficiaries, and then the healthy population.

A base spokesman said Tuesday there is no precise timetable on when vaccines will be made available to those considered high-risk, but as more doses become available, that information will be shared.

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“This will help us get back hopefully to a new normal where we are able to protect the health and safety of our community because we had an opportunity to distribute and can receive the vaccine,” Lyons added.

“Our vaccination plan for team Wright-Patt is to prioritize our medical staff and first responders,” said Col. Patrick Miller, 88th Air Base Wing and Wright-Patt installation commander. “This significantly improves mission readiness and ensures our front-line Airmen are ready and safe as we navigate the next phase of the pandemic.”

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Base personnel have prepared for this moment. Late last month, Miller said the base was not then slated to receive vaccines, but officials there had trained to administer and distribute them when they arrived.

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Miller said then that base personnel had conducted a “table top” exercise, a dry run to plan how to receive, store and distribute vaccines.

“The COVID-19 vaccine is another item in our toolkit as medical professionals to help combat the pandemic, one that can provide long-term solutions to allow for better mission readiness and normal operating environments,” said Lt. Col. Thad Ocampo, chief of the 88th Medical Group’s Allergy and Immunizations Clinic. “Medical center staff have been preparing for this a few months now and are trained in safe vaccine protocols. We have plenty of medical supplies on hand to support vaccines and are ready to support our community.”

The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses at least 21 days apart, the base said.

Ocampo recommends that vaccine recipients schedule their second dose the same day to ensure they receive it as close to the 21-day mark as possible.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) said Monday it had administered initial vaccine doses to more than 14,000 veterans considered at “high risk” of contracting COVID-19, along with more than 132,000 employees.

The Dayton Veterans Affairs Medical Center started administering the vaccine Dec. 23.

The vaccine, made by Pfizer and BioNTech, reached some DoD distribution sites by mid-December. The Pfizer vaccine was first distributed to locations with the ability to store the shots at temperatures of about -80C, Military.com reported last month.

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