MacDill AFB protects the force with COVID-19 vaccinations

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class David D. McLoney
  • 6th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Taking care of military personnel, either active duty, reserve, guard or retirees, is a high priority for MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

To assist with reducing the amount of COVID-19 related cases, the 6th Medical Group stands-up a point of dispensing (POD) almost every Thursday and Friday at Hangar 5 on MacDill to distribute the vaccine to a list of people based on risk factor and availability.

“When they first come in, they get a form that asks questions about past vaccines and their basic demographic information,” said Capt. Kwanza K. Lincoln, a 6th Medical Group physician assistant. “Once they fill that form out, they have administrators check them in to make sure they are there for their specific time slot to keep the foot traffic flowing, because only a certain amount of people are allowed to process through here every hour.”

The design of the POD is to vaccinate individuals in the most efficient way possible. Keeping personnel safe during the process takes precedent, as they are informed of possible side effects and other information regarding the vaccine. After sitting through the five-minute brief, individuals then receive their vaccine.

“We had our first COVID-19 vaccine POD from Jan. 11-15, 2021,” said Capt. Gerald M. Kiaritha, a 6th Medical Group POD director. “We vaccinated 2,124 individuals in five days.  Now we can vaccinate up to 1,800 in four hours.  With every POD, we sit down with the team and discuss ways to be more efficient not only for MDG staff but for the wing.  As of April 15, 2021, we have given a total of 13,841 vaccines.”

After the vaccine is given, each person sits in a waiting area for between 15 and 30 minutes to ensure they don’t have an allergic reaction. Safety is taken seriously while individuals are monitored, before and after the vaccine.

“It is a requirement that everyone working the POD wear a face mask,” said Kiaritha. “All vaccinators are required to wear a surgical mask and face shield. All clipboards and pens are wiped down with hospital approved [disinfecting] wipes after every patient use.”

Along with safety, the 6th MDG focuses on shortening the time it takes to go through the whole process, reducing interaction time to ensure safety.

“The whole goal was to have patients wait as little as possible, processing the listed personnel in the shortest amount of time,” said Lincoln.

Reducing the wait time enables the 6th MDG to get more patients through the line, creating a more efficient process throughout.

“To ensure that we don’t waste doses due to people not showing up for their appointment, we maintain a stand-by list,” said Kiaritha. “Furthermore, we do not take doses out of storage until we are sure we have patients to receive them.  We have not wasted a single dose of the vaccine since the very first POD in January.”

With all the vaccines that get distributed, the 6th MDG is able to focus its efforts on ending the pandemic to help MacDill return to how it operated prior.

“We are doing our job as a joint effort around the United States to try to get as many people vaccinated as possible to move forward from the pandemic and frozen state we’ve been in for a while,” said Lincoln. “Our efforts are designed to help with that and ease any concerns of the 6th MDG patient population.”

The goal of MacDill is to ensure that the mission keeps moving on, and that any interruption is taken care of with haste and priority.

“We want to get shots in arms and get back to a normalcy as quickly as we can,” said Kiaritha. “The more base personnel we vaccinate, the less potential interruption there is to the mission.  Every time someone has to isolate because they have contracted COVID-19 or have been exposed, we have to realize that it could have been prevented if they were vaccinated.  For the 6th MDG, the sooner we get the vaccine to those who want it, the sooner we can return to normalcy in our daily operations.”

The 6th MDG strives to properly distribute every vaccine in their possession to beneficiaries, so MacDill can continue to develop the force by taking care of Airmen and assist in advancing the Air Force’s warfighting capabilities.