FORT RILEY, Kan.—Fort Riley medical professionals and first responders received the first rounds of vaccinations for COVID-19 on December 23 at the Irwin Army Community Hospital on Fort Riley, Kansas.
“Today we go on offense,” said Maj. Gen. Douglas A. Sims, commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division. “We have to continue our COVID defenses—masking, hygiene, and socially distancing—but as of today we are taking the fight to the virus.”
The Moderna vaccine will be administered in phases according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Currently, the military is in Phase 1 Alpha, which includes vaccinating all healthcare providers, healthcare support personnel, and emergency services professionals. The initial person on Fort Riley to receive the first of the two-shot vaccination was an emergency room doctor on post.
“This is a historic moment, I take care of lots of COVID-19 positive patients, both in the ER and pre-hospital,” said Dr. Andrew Bloom, the emergency medical services director for Fort Riley. “This is our best chance for ending the pandemic.”
Bloom said an interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci, a physician and immunologist who has served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was his reason to volunteer for the vaccination.
“Dr. Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, in his interview right before he got the shot, he talked about this being a veil of protection for the country,” said Bloom. “It’s been a huge amount of suffering that the whole nation’s gone through and really the whole world for months now. We're getting close to a year of dealing with COVID. It's been awful and anything I could possibly do to stop this, I'm willing to do.”
The vaccine will be offered on a voluntary basis. Priority populations are highly encouraged to receive the vaccine. When the vaccine is formally licensed by the Food and Drug Administration, it may become mandatory for all military personnel.