Nellis administers initial COVID-19 vaccine

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Second Lt. Elora Palmer, 99th Inpatient Operation Squadron clinical nurse, receives the first COVID-19 vaccination at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Dec. 23, 2020. Palmer discussed the importance of everyone getting vaccinated, especially medical professionals who are constantly in close contact with patients. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Zachary Rufus)
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Personnel at the Mike O’Callaghan Military Medical Center, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., administered the base’s first round of COVID-19 vaccinations Dec. 23, 2020.

The Department of Defense distributed the vaccine to several initial sites as part of Operation Warp Speed, which is the nation’s initiative to safely and efficiently vaccinate the American public.

“The 99th Medical Group team has done a great job preparing for this day and practicing how we’ll execute the vaccination line effectively and efficiently,” said Col. Todd Dyer, 99th Air Base Wing commander. “Since this pandemic kicked off 10 months ago, our medical professionals have been on the front lines keeping our Airmen and families safe. I’m hopeful that in the coming months, as we work toward getting the nation vaccinated, we can methodically overcome this pandemic.”

According to Nellis medical professionals, the vaccines are a huge step in the right direction toward lowering COVID-19 infection and transmission rates.

COVID-19 vaccinations sit on a table at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Dec. 23, 2020. Mike O’Callaghan Military Medical Center personnel administered the base’s first COVID-19 vaccinations to first responders and mission-essential personnel here today. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Zachary Rufus)

“After months of reacting to COVID, we are finally going on the offense against the pandemic,” said Col. Brent Johnson, 99th MDG commander. “The vaccines we are administering have approximately a 95-percent effective rate, so this is a very important vaccine to take to prevent getting sick and spreading the disease.”

Over the next several months, Nellis will continue to administer the vaccine using a phased approach to ensure first responders, mission-essential personnel, deploying forces and individuals with serious illnesses are among the first to receive the vaccine.

In line with the phased approach, the first person vaccinated at Nellis was 2nd Lt. Elora Palmer, a multi-service clinical nurse assigned to the 99th Inpatient Operations Squadron.

“It was an honor and I’m really excited that we have the vaccines here,” said Palmer. “I’m hopeful that it’s the beginning of the end of a really horrible pandemic and the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m happy to now be able to protect my patients. I was constantly worried that I’d somehow contract COVID and not know it and then pass it to my patients. It was a definite fear that ran through my mind on a daily basis.”

Tech. Sgt. Kimberly Walker, 99th Medical Support Squadron NCO In-Charge of Pharmacy, and Capt. Benjamin Ermin, 99th MDSS OIC of the Main Pharmacy, prepare COVID-19 vaccinations at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Dec. 23, 2020. The vaccinations are designed to protect personnel against the coronavirus, which has contributed to more than 300,000 American deaths. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Zachary Rufus)

With the first round of vaccinations underway, another obstacle medical professionals face is working to debunk the myths that the vaccines are not safe or effective.

“There are false narratives out there that these vaccines are untested, which simply isn’t true,” said Johnson. “Both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines went through three phases of testing, the last of which gathered safety and efficacy data by studying 40,000 and 30,000 people, respectively. For each group, half received the actual vaccine and half received a placebo, and the vaccine and placebo groups were monitored for adverse events and number of COVID cases.”

Although the vaccines are not yet mandated, Johnson urges everyone to obtain the vaccine as a protective health measure for themselves and others.

“Even though most young people don’t get sick enough to need a hospital, COVID affects people in different and unpredictable ways,” said Johnson. “The vaccine has several benefits such as being less likely to pass COVID to others, so you are able to protect those around you by getting vaccinated. Finally, we are keeping the Air Force mission going at Nellis by making sure we are all healthy.”

First responders await COVID-19 vaccinations at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Dec. 23, 2020. Nellis’ first responders were among the first group of individuals to receive the vaccination because they are the front line workers protecting the safety of the community and population at large against COVID-19. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Zachary Rufus)

As with all new medical advances, healthcare professionals are closely monitoring for any adverse reactions, but thus far the benefits outweigh the risks.

“Now that hundreds of thousands of people have been vaccinated, there have been news reports of approximately six serious allergic reactions, which are known adverse reactions to vaccines and something we are ready to treat,” said Johnson. “A rate of six out of several hundred thousand is far safer than the health risks of catching COVID and spreading it, when there have already been 17 million cases and over 300,000 American deaths from COVID.”  

Information about ongoing vaccinations at Nellis Air Force Base will be shared at Nellis.af.mil and on the base’s Facebook page, and also at https://www.defense.gov/Explore/Spotlight/Coronavirus/Vaccine-Availability/.
 
 
 

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