931st MDG ramps efforts to vaccinate members

  • Published
  • By TSgt Abigail Klein
  • 931 Air Refueling Wing

On the front lines of the COVID Pandemic, the members of the 931st Medical Group have worked more than 3,000 hours to vaccinate 90.8% of 931st Air Refueling Wing Airmen since February 2021 despite the evolving guidance and the Department of Defense vaccine mandate.

“The COVID vaccine in and of itself is a full-time job to keep up with,” said 2nd Lt. Tiffany Loewen, 931st MDG clinical nurse. “Guidelines and information have continued to change frequently throughout this whole year.”

The 931st AMDS and 22nd MDG began providing COVID vaccine points of distribution at the base clinic in February 2021 when the vaccine was still optional.

The PODs were set up to vaccinate large numbers of people in one setting while maintaining safe and effective immunization practices.

“A lot of planning went into each unit training assembly shot line,” Lt. Col. (Dr.) Joshua Hartman. 931st AMDS flight surgeon said. “Early on when the vaccines were still optional, the planning was geared more toward identifying members who wanted a vaccination or required one for job or deployment purposes.  We made every effort to schedule them into chalks to minimize their wait time at the MDG.”

Hartman said minimizing that short wait time was not just a convenience for members getting their shots, it also kept crowd sizes down and reduced exposure risk.

Loewen said assigning members to certain jobs also cut down on the wait times.

“It has been very important to have certain people dedicated to certain jobs and a separate shot line for each different type of vaccine to minimize risk for error and keep the line running smoothly,” said Loewen.

In addition to the the challenge of setting up the PODs, Hartman said the storage of the vaccine also required more precautions than other vaccines. The ultra-cold storage requirements and short shelf life once the vaccine is prepped to administer required 931st AMDS members to do a lot of staff training to ensure that everyone giving the vaccine was qualified.

“When the vaccines first rolled out, the supply was very limited and we had to take special precautions to eliminate wasted doses from the multidose vials,” Hartman said. “Once a vial was thawed, all 10 doses had to be given within a relatively short timeframe—the bottles couldn’t just be put back in the refrigerator to be used next UTA.”

In addition to vaccinating members of the 931st ARW, the 931st AMDS assisted the 22nd MDG’s vaccination lines at the clinic and during POD events at the Robert J. Dole Center and base theater.  During these events, 931st AMDS members also helped administer shots, update shot records and assisted with crowd control.

One year later, the members of the 931sts AMDS have been able to vaccinate over 700 members of the 931st ARW.

Despite all the challenges both Hartman and Loewen said they are proud of the work their staff has been able to accomplish.

“I’m proud of how our team was able to work so closely with the 22d MDG personnel to procure vaccine supplies early on during the initial release, and then with follow-on resupply,” Hartman said. “It was truly a team effort.”