Davis-Monthan begins administering COVID-19 vaccine

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Airmen from the 355th medical group prepare to begin giving COVID-19 vaccines at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, Jan. 6. Davis-Monthan began voluntary vaccinations as part of Operation Warp Speed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicholas Ross)
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DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. — The 355th Medical Group began administering the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, Jan. 6, 2021.

This distribution is a part of Operation Warp Speed, a national initiative to produce and deliver millions of doses of safe and effective vaccines to the American people.

The first phase of administering the vaccine prioritizes those providing direct medical care and who maintain essential national security and installation functions. The Department of Defense’s prioritization was developed in line with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention distribution priorities to offer the vaccine to critical personnel filling specific mission requirements and serving in high-exposure risk units.

An Airman from the 355th Medical Group sets up one of the vaccine stations at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, Jan. 5. Davis-Monthan began voluntary vaccinations as part of Operation Warp Speed, the national initiative to produce and distribute COVID-19 vaccines. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicholas Ross)

The vaccine distribution is aimed at protecting the health of Airmen, their families and their community by lowering the public health risk associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. Staff Sgt. Suzanna A. Nelson, non-commissioned officer in charge of the immunizations clinic, was the first Airman at Davis-Monthan to be given the vaccine.

“It was such an exciting feeling,” said Nelson. “Being able to do my part in us being able to take the next steps toward mitigating the effects of the virus is amazing.”

The Food and Drug Administration approves vaccines to ensure that only safe and effective products are made available to the American public. During public health emergencies, like the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA may authorize their expedited use through an Emergency Use Authorization when there is scientific reason to believe they are safe and effective. Vaccines authorized in this way, including the COVID-19 vaccine, are offered on a voluntary basis.

“Medications such as Tylenol, Ibuprofen, and diabetes medication, all went through a very similar if not the same vetting process that this vaccine did,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Jonathan E. Mandabach, 355th MDG pediatrician and primary doctor responsible for the first phase of the COVID-19 distribution at Davis-Monthan. “I think the important thing to note is that no steps were skipped.”

All eligible recipients are advised to educate themselves on the vaccine before they decide whether they want to receive it.

Medical supplies at one of four vaccine stations at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona January 5. Davis-Monthan acquired its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines and readies to begin administration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicholas Ross).

As more doses become available, other members of the Active Duty force, their dependents, retirees, reserve components, DoD employees and contractors who normally receive vaccines will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine based on the DoD prioritization plan.

“It’s safe, it’s effective, and it’s the best shot we have to a return to normalcy in the future,” Mandabach said.

Although the arrival of the vaccine represents a significant step in the fight against the virus, there will not be an immediate change to the COVID-19 mitigation policies on base. Personnel should continue to wear masks, practice physical distancing, wash their hands, and stay home if they feel sick.

Additional up-to-date information about the vaccine and the DoD’s distribution plan can be found here: https://www.defense.gov/Explore/Spotlight/Coronavirus/Vaccine-Availability/

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Susanna Nelson, non-commissioned officer in charge of the 355th Medical Group immunization clinic, receives the first COVID-19 vaccine at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, Jan. 6. Vaccination is currently administered using a phased approach. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicholas Ross)
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