FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Fort Leonard Wood’s General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital began administering COVID-19 vaccinations Jan. 11 after receiving a limited number of vaccines following the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization.
Since then, Soldiers and civilians from across the installation continue to receive the vaccine, following a prioritization strategy established at the Department of Defense level, which is being used here and mirrors protocols used by civilian hospitals, according to Col. Aaron Pitney, GLWACH commander.
“Our position in the vaccine program or protocol is very much nested within that of the entire U.S.,” Pitney said. “(The Pfizer vaccine) is being distributed to many civilian hospitals and it’s the same vaccine that’s being distributed to us; so the criteria for how we utilize it very much has to mirror the same recommendation and the requirements put forth by the federal government and the CDC.”
Currently, GLWACH is in Phases 1A, 1B and 1C of the vaccination plan.
Under Phase 1A, emergency room and urgent care personnel, first responders and health care and support personnel at military hospitals and clinics are among those who can receive the vaccine.
Under 1B, personnel who support national critical capabilities, who are preparing to deploy to locations outside of the continental U.S. or within the next three months can receive the vaccine. Beneficiaries aged 75 or older and front-line essential workers are also eligible to receive the vaccine under this phase.
Phase 1C, which began this week, includes high-risk beneficiaries aged 65 and older or aged 16 and older with one or more of the following conditions: active cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart failure, coronary artery disease (not including hypertension), cardiomyopathy, immunocompromised state from solid-organ transplant, obesity with a body mass index of 30 or higher, currently pregnant, sickle cell disease, active smokers with documentation in medical records, and Type-2 diabetes (insulin dependent).
As GLWACH finishes one phase and starts another, Pitney said the goal is “to have this very fluid planned out process by which we go from one category to the next without any significant delays.”
He said while there are definitely distinct lines in terms of the vaccination process, there is some fluidity between one phase and the next.
“As we start to finish off one category of people, we’re already starting to ramp up the next category of people so that we don’t delay down to the last person who’s eligible — we get them in and then we recognize that and we stop and then we start the next phase,” Pitney said.
One person who received the vaccine at GLWACH is Donald Busbice Jr., Fort Leonard Wood Garrison Safety director.
Busbice said the core values of service before self and selfless service played a role in his decision to receive the vaccine.
“My mindset — if I have the opportunity to prevent transmitting COVID 19 to anyone else, work or home, then I must do my part — COVID 19 stops with me,” he said.
“I think our responsibility as healthcare staff, providers and also as military leaders is to talk about the safety of the vaccine … it’s not just a matter of protecting ourselves,” Pitney said. “When we ourselves choose to take the vaccine, we are actually protecting the Soldiers and service members to our left and right who we work and serve alongside.”
After receiving the first shot at GLWACH, Busbice said the experience was comparable to receiving the flu shot.
“I experienced slight pain at the injection site for 24 hours, no other issues and 48 hours after taking it, I feel great,” he said. “Basically, the COVID 19 shot mimicked the same effects as the seasonal flu shot taken in the fall.”
He said the entire process from start to finish took about 20 minutes: five minutes to fill out the documentation followed by a 15-minute observation period after receiving the vaccine.
And for those who are contemplating taking the vaccine, Busbice offered this advice.
“Weigh all options, make a fact-based decision, the information is available, and please think of not just you, but also co-workers, family members, and the public we interact with on a daily basis,” Busbice said. “We have the responsibility to promote a safe environment for not only ourselves but also the folks we interact with.”
Individuals who fall in any of the three phase categories and want to schedule a vaccine appointment can call GLWACH’s Referral Center at 866.299.4234.
For the most up-to-date information on vaccination opportunities here, visit GLWACH’s website at https://leonard-wood.tricare.mil or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/glwach.