177th Fighter Wing Medical Group Administers Wing's First Round of COVID-19 Vaccinations

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Hunter Hires
  • 177th Fighter Wing

Some of the first unit members to receive the vaccine were U.S. Air Force Col. Bradford Everman, 177th Fighter Wing commander, Chief Master Sgt. William C. Perkins, 177th FW command chief, and Col. Eric N. Erickson Jr., 177th Medical Group commander, the three volunteering to lead the charge in vaccination.

“We found that, around the Wing, our voluntary rate is fairly low,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Bradford R. Everman, 177th Fighter Wing commander. “There’s not a lot of trust in the system, so one of the things we discussed at the senior leader level is that we can help build trust by showing that we’re willing to take the vaccine right off the bat.”

Unit members who received the vaccine were chosen according to DoD guidance and the phased priority schedule, said Col. Eric N. Erickson, Jr. It was essential to ensure that the members volunteered, as it is not a requirement.

“I didn’t want to be in a position to have to tell people, ‘Hey you ought to volunteer to get the vaccine,’ and have them say, ‘Did you do it?’ ‘Well, no, but you ought to go do it.’ And so, the way is to lead the way, so here we are. I really do think it’s the best way to protect the Airmen and protect the mission,” said Everman.

Feedback, to date, from those who received the vaccine, included wanting the vaccine to protect vulnerable family members, co-workers and themselves from COVID-19, said Erickson. The decision to volunteer to take the vaccine under the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) is a personal one, which all Service Members need to determine for themselves.

“Personally, I believe vaccination is an important tool along with social distancing and mask wear to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 to the most vulnerable members of our society and to help us ensure that our current healthcare personnel across the nation can get a reprieve from the year-plus crisis that has strained our healthcare systems,” said Erickson.

The 177th MDG has been working relentlessly and efficiently to keep unit members healthy, continuing to advance their own methods of conducting operations through several training initiatives, as well as providing vaccinations to those who volunteered to take them.

“As with all other vaccinations, the 177th MDG is handling the COVID-19 vaccination with manufacturer, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and DOD guidance,” said Erickson. “Immunizations are a routine part of the mission to ensure readiness, and the COVID-19 vaccination is one more tool that we have to ensure mission success.”

“The 177th MDG has been fantastic,” said Everman. “Everything from being fully informed and educating the base population all the way to their processes, such as how they got the data in order to disseminate that information, how they get people through the system, how they get you in-processed, get the actual vaccination and get you out the door. It’s by far one of the safest things I’ve seen. Clearly, they are both caring and knowledgeable about the process and they’ve made it as efficient as they possibly can. There are not enough words to describe how well the Medical Group is handling this, so I’m extremely impressed.”

Under the Emergency use Authorization (EUA), the Centers for Disease (CDC) has published guidance and data on the safety and efficacy of the Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines. The FDA is required to make decisions that are guided by science and data regarding authorization or approval of COVID-19 vaccines.

The CDC has a longstanding program known as the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) that is being used to identify and track adverse reactions, said Erickson. The CDC is also promoting the use of ‘V-safe After Vaccination Health Checker’, a smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins after you receive a COVID-19 vaccination.

"Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines can cause side effects that are similar to symptoms associated with other vaccines, such as injection site pain in the arm, fever, muscle pain, chills and headache,” said Erickson. “The CDC has learned of reports that some people have experienced non-severe allergic reactions within 4 hours after getting vaccinated (known as immediate allergic reactions), such as hives, swelling, and wheezing (respiratory distress). While the symptoms may be uncomfortable, and at times intense, they should go away within 24-48 hours. Tylenol may be taken after the vaccination to help with any symptoms you have. If symptoms persist, please consult your primary care provider."

The CDC has recommended that no other vaccines be given 2 weeks before or after a COVID-19 vaccine.

https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/covid-19-vaccines https://vaers.hhs.gov/ https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/vsafe.html https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/allergic-reaction.html