2011 Armed Forces Operational Medicine Symposium
July 26, 2011
The 2011 Armed Forces Operational Medicine Symposium, held in May in Colorado Springs, CO, provided a golden opportunity for medical personnel across the Services to share their wealth of experience. It also offered an opportunity for personnel to expand their knowledge by hearing updates from the Services and various Department of Defense (DoD) agencies, including the Military Vaccine (MILVAX) Agency, which conducted a two-day Immunization Leaders Course (ILC) for attendees.
Since MILVAX implements immunization policy across DoD, the 5th Annual AFOMS Conference was a perfect platform to provide valuable updates to policy, immunization standards, clinical recommendations, and new and future vaccines to the diverse audience it serves.
Approximately 500 Service members, mostly Independent Duty Corpsmen (IDCs) and Independent Duty Medical Technicians (IDMTs), also gained hands-on access to MILVAX resources and had the opportunity to voice any concerns they have from the field.
The two-day Immunization Leaders Course was conducted for the first time in a slightly condensed version of the three-day course MILVAX conducts once a month at various locations CONUS and OCONUS. Among the topics covered for the AFOMS audience were briefings on the seasonal influenza vaccination program, vaccine storage and handling, the eight standards of military immunization delivery, and information on new vaccines and vaccines in development for future use. As policy and clinical guidelines for immunization are always evolving, some students were not aware of the latest information, and the Immunization Leaders Course provided not only answers, but points of contact and reference material for future updates or vaccine-related issues.
During these briefings, led by MILVAX analysts Mr. Keith Boyce, Ms. Celia Dowers, and Mr. Terrance Wherry, education was a key focus: not only education of the immunizer, but education of the patient as well. This education includes the seven rights of medication administration, to ensure patients receive the right dose of the right drug, the right person is receiving the right route of administration at the right time, and that it is documented correctly. Also included was education on proper screening techniques, which aim to eliminate needless vaccinations and reduce adverse events after immunization. These rights and standards are the cornerstones of the DoD’s immunization programs, which have been consistently excellent.
MILVAX detailed DoD efforts in past influenza seasons, which resulted in higher and faster compliance each year. MAJ Jennifer Mbuthia, in her role as a physician with the VHC Network, talked about VHC’s role in providing clinical support to those who have adverse events. MILVAX and VHC both spoke about increased vaccine advocacy, which has been vital in improving the scope of immunization delivery as people fully realize their benefit. Additionally, attendees were briefed by Lt Col Catherine Witkop, Medical Director at the U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Clinic, about accession-specific immunization guidance.
In conjunction with the two-day Immunization Leaders Course, MILVAX had a presence in the conference’s main display area, which provided an opportunity to reach those not in attendance at the ILC, as well as provide follow-up information for all attendees who required it. Personnel were encouraged to become actively connected to immunization updates through the MILVAX website and other resources.
It is through these hands-on outreach efforts that MILVAX is able to connect with the front-line personnel it aims to serve, and through those Service members’ resulting efforts that DoD maintains a standard of excellence in immunizations.