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SAMHS starts next phase of vaccine rollout, expands to 75 and older

Medical personnel giving a vaccine to a soldier in her right arm Air Force Senior Airman Kasey Ginn, medical technician, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Army Capt. Christine Kasprisin, physical therapist, at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Jan. 26, 2021. The San Antonio Military Health System is starting the next phase of the Department of Defense’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout -- expanding the scope of who is eligible to get vaccinated against the virus. (Photo by Jason Edwards.)

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This month the San Antonio Military Health System (SAMHS) will initiate the next phase of the Department of Defense’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout — expanding the scope of who is eligible to get vaccinated against the virus.

Phase 1b includes beneficiaries age 75 and older, personnel who perform critical national capabilities, personnel preparing to deploy to locations outside of the U.S., and frontline essential workers.

“We are doing everything we can do put shots in arms as quickly as possible,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. John DeGoes, SAMHS market director and commander of 59th Medical Wing, which oversees Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center. “We continue to focus on efficiency while maintaining the highest emphasis on safety.”

In a cooperative market effort, the Brooke Army Medical Center and Wilford Hall will each take on distinct vaccination roles in the days ahead. BAMC will focus on vaccinating eligible 1b military personnel, while Wilford Hall will finish vaccinating their eligible 1b military personnel and begin vaccinating civilian TRICARE beneficiaries age 75 and older starting Feb. 3.

Medical personnel giving a vaccine
Carlton Chase, licensed vocational nurse, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Christy Jackson, OB-GYN midwife, at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Jan. 26, 2021. Jackson said, “I got the COVID vaccine because I take care of mommies and babies.” (Photo by Jason Edwards.)

Vaccinations for eligible 1b military personnel will be coordinated by their military units. Wilford Hall is opening a limited number of appointments for beneficiaries age 75 and older to be booked by calling the Consult Appointment Management Office, or CAMO.  The status of those appointments will be posted on the JBSA COVID-19 website, or for CAMO information and contact numbers, visit the CAMO webpage.

As the market expands to additional populations, SAMHS remains committed to the completion of Phase 1a vaccinations, which includes personnel in the vaccine program’s top priority tiers: healthcare providers, support staff and service members directly supporting the national COVID-19 response.

With an ongoing Level I trauma mission and more than 8,600 staff members at BAMC alone, Phase 1a has been a considerable undertaking, noted Army Col. Michael Wirt, BAMC’s deputy commanding officer.

“It’s a milestone to expand to the next phase of the vaccine process while still ensuring we provide our healthcare workers vaccine opportunities,” he said. “We could not have moved out this quickly without the efforts of our entire team, from planning and logistics to clinical vaccination teams and support staff.”

Following Phase 1b, the market will later expand its efforts to include Phase 1c, which encompasses eligible beneficiaries age 65-74; and beneficiaries age 16 and older at increased risk for severe illness as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For detailed information on the DoD’s phased plan, visit the Defense Health Agency’s COVID-19 vaccine page.

SAMHS is administering the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine under special authorization by the Food and Drug Administration. The vaccine, which is administered in two doses 21 days apart, is expected to have a 95% efficacy rate following receipt of the second dose, according to the CDC website. For detailed information on the Pfizer vaccine, visit the CDC's vaccine information.

Even with such a high efficacy rate, people must stay vigilant even after getting the vaccine until more is learned about the protective immunity these vaccines confer, noted Air Force Col. Heather Yun, BAMC’s deputy commander for medical services and an infectious disease physician.

“Remember the 3 Ws — Wear a mask, Wash hands or hand sanitize regularly, and Watch your physical distance,” she said. “Taking protective measures and getting the vaccine when available are the best ways to protect ourselves, our families and our communities and put an end to this terrible pandemic.

Visit the DoD’s vaccine program, for additional information, or visit the SAMHS vaccine program. Or follow BAMC or WHASC on social media.

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