RWBAHC is distributing first wave of COVID-19 Vaccines to Phase 1 personnel on post.
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COVID-19 vaccination begins in earnest

By Rachel Kibbe Williams

Raymond W. Bliss Army Health Center (RWBAHC) received their first shipment of the Moderna COVID vaccine, Thursday, January 7th, gave training to the nursing team on proper handling of the vaccine on Friday, and began giving out the vaccine on Monday, January 11.

The planning for the distribution of the vaccine began in November, as the RWBAHC team worked through ideas on how best to handle the vaccine and give it out in the most efficient manner.

RWBAHC followed the prescribed phase and tier system in determining the order of vaccination.

The first people to receive the vaccine, Phase 1, are the emergency response and healthcare teams. This will be followed by deployable Soldiers and civilians, critical and essential support personnel.

Phase 2 are high-risk beneficiaries, as defined by the CDC. The high risk category includes beneficiaries who are over 65 years old and/or who may have:
  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD
  • Heart conditions
  • Immunocropromised state from solid organ transplant
  • Obesity/sever obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Trouble quitting smoking
  • Type 2 diabetes
Phase 3 consists of healthy TRICARE beneficiaries.

Rachelle P. Chapman, RWBAHC Nurse Case Manager, received her first dose of the vaccine, Monday afternoon, said she’s happy playing the odds.

“The vaccination gives you a 98, 95-percent chance of not getting this horrible virus. Your flu vaccine is not close to that. There have been so many millions of people vaccinated, now, who have not had any issues with the vaccine. I think that’s pretty good odds,” Chapman said.

Cpt. Gary Piontek, the RWBAHC Company Commander, said it was important for him to get the vaccine to protect his loved ones. “I’m really not worried about getting COVID and what would happen to me, but for the other people around me, especially my wife and my two little girls.”

Aaron Tatum, MEPRS Analyst at RWBAHC, was the first person in line to receive the vaccine Monday afternoon. “The biggest reason I decided I wanted to get the vaccine is just because Arizona is seeing a real-big hot spot, and I figured I’d do my part and go ahead and get the shot,” Tatum said.

Jestine Volgende, Supervisor for Medical Records Technicians, said, “I know a lot of people were scared because of the side-effects. Everyone’s body works differently. It’s just how’s it going to affect me? I would definitely recommend it.”

Although there are concerns expressed by some about the vaccine, the CDC helps explain how the mRNA vaccines work, and why they are safe. Although they sound similar to DNA, mRNA does not interact in anyway with a person’s DNA.

In addition, according to the CDC, none of the COVID-19 vaccines distributed in the United States contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. This means that none of the COVID-19 vaccine can make you sick with COVID-19.

The vaccine works by teaching your immune system how to recognize and fight off the virus that causes COVID-19.

RWBAHC has set-up the COVID Vaccination Clinic separate from the rest of the medical services provided, and it’s designed to be easy and efficient.

“It was pretty easy. I just had the form filled out before I came in. Got screened by one of the nurses at the screening table. They asked me if I was okay getting the vaccine. I said yes. They told me where to go to get the shot. They gave me the vaccination. I waited for 15 minutes and I’m good to go,” Piontek said.

Lisa Spann, RWBAHC’s new Patient Advocate, said, “I think it was very efficient. It was very smooth. Excellent organization. They did social distancing prior to coming in and after.”

Chapman said, “Get it now! The longer you wait, the higher the chance of you getting COVID, since COVID numbers are so high right now. I want life to return to normal. The more people who are vaccinated, the quicker we can return to our normal existence. I want to be able to travel to see family again.”

RWBAHC will continue administering the COVID-19 vaccine to each Phase, in turn, as long as the supply lasts. This is the first, of many, shipments expected for the facility to receive.
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