FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital began its COVID-19 vaccination program in conjunction with the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence on Jan. 11.
Our first staff member to be vaccinated was an Emergency Department nurse whose medical history put her at increased risk for a severe COVID-19 infection. She wanted to receive the vaccine to protect herself, but also to protect her patients. We then began simultaneously vaccinating our first responders and other frontline medical personnel at the hospital, in line with Department of Defense vaccination plans.
The team at GLWACH is excited to have an available vaccine and another opportunity to protect the force by taking part in vaccination efforts. The vaccine is currently offered on a voluntary basis until the FDA formally provides a license. However, I encourage leaders at all levels to communicate the confidence I have in the effectiveness of the vaccine because receiving it not only helps to protect you, but our community and our Army.
I have talked to many people who have received the vaccine, and when I asked them about side effects, most said they were similar to those experienced from the flu vaccine. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, data suggests people who got the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were less likely to have more serious outcomes. The vaccine is also 95 percent effective at preventing laboratory confirmed COVID-19 illness in people without evidence of previous infection.
The team at GLWACH has contacted the majority of beneficiaries who meet the high-risk criteria outlined by the DoD and CDC through Tricare Online Secure Messaging, including those enrolled with GLWACH who are aged 65 or older, to schedule an appointment to receive the vaccine. These messages are sent through secure means and give the patient notification to schedule an appointment to receive the vaccine.
By current guidelines, high-risk patients are aged 65 and older, or aged 16 and older with one of the following conditions:
-Cancer (currently active)
-Chronic kidney disease
-Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD
-Coronary artery disease (not including hypertension)
-Immunocompromised state from solid organ transplant
-Obesity (with a body mass index of 30 or higher)
-Sickle cell disease
-Active smoker (documented in medical records)
-Type 2 diabetes (insulin dependent and not including Type 1 diabetes)
These beneficiaries are asked to call and self-refer if interested in receiving the vaccine.
For those enrolled beneficiaries who qualify, please contact the hospital appointment line at 866-299-4234.
For others, I ask for your patience and understanding until availability allows us to start vaccinating everyone. I anticipate GLWACH will continue to receive a supply of the vaccine and our intent is vaccinate anyone desiring to do so.
For those who choose not to receive the vaccine, I urge you to continue to adhere to orders and personal protective measures: wear a mask, maintain physical distance, wash your hands and avoid crowds.
I am always impressed by the resiliency and adaptability of our force. Our community has stayed flexible and vigilant amidst the challenges of the last 10 months. We remain committed to protecting our patients, maintaining readiness and supporting COVID-19 response efforts.