FORT HOOD, Texas -- COVID-19 specialists from Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center here answered questions and provided some insight into the COVID vaccine during a Facebook Town Hall held Jan. 22
“Things are always getting better,” Col. Richard Malish, commander of CRDAMC, said assuredly. “The light at the end of the tunnel continues to get brighter.”
The Department of Defense announced in early December that CRDAMC was one of 16 distinct locations designated as a pilot site for the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Malish explained that as a pilot site, CRDAMC provides weekly reports to the DoD, updating them regarding the lessons they have learned. He said the lessons will help the DoD as they expand the vaccine to other installations.
Malish praised the team in charge of the Emergency Operations Center, which was set up to ensure organized screenings, COVID-19 testing, treatment and vaccinations. He told the audience watching from their computers or personal devices that they quickly realized there was a little overcrowding. To reduce overcrowding and offset the time spent in waiting rooms, they came with a cohort system, which allows those waiting to socially distance in the hospital’s large atrium, while a small group is taken for treatment.
Beneficiaries could submit questions in advance or ask questions live on the Facebook Live feed, which garnered 189 viewers during the event. The most commonly asked question being, “When can I get the vaccine?”
Malish said he is happy people are eager for the vaccine, but they are currently waiting for the next shipment of vaccines. He recommended beneficiaries continue to monitor CRDAMC’s Facebook page for updates about vaccine distribution. Brittany Jaccaud, key analyst planner and operations officer of the EOC, also recommended beneficiaries sign up for secure messaging. She said doctors who know if their patients fall into the “high risk” category should contact them via secure messaging to let them know when the vaccine is available for them.
High risk patients include anyone over the age of 65, those with cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart conditions, pregnant, diabetes and any other immunocompromised states. As medical professionals who are around those with COVID on a daily basis, CRDAMC employees received the first vaccines. Lt. Col. Sean Allen, deputy commander for health and readiness and director of the EOC, said it was important for them to step forward and lead the effort to stop COVID.
“As a medical professional, I wanted to be part of the solution,” he said about receiving the vaccine himself.
As they await the vaccine, they are already preparing to be able to inoculate more people at a faster rate. Malish and Allen announced that CRDAMC is developing three vaccination sites outside of the hospital. A beneficiary-only site will be set up at Abrams Physical Fitness Center. Two active duty sites will be set up at an equipment filling facility on Clarke Road and in the basement of the Shoemaker Center.
Malish told the viewers he realizes some people may also still be on the fence about receiving the vaccine. Describing this pandemic as a “War with COVID,” he said the virus is like an insurgency and the vaccine is a counter-insurgency.
“This virus needs something. It needs un-immunized people to spread it, but now we have a weapon,” Malish said about the vaccine. “That weapon is to deny the virus of un-immunized people. We can seize the initiative and dominate.”
The commander went on to say he knows the decision to be vaccinated is an individual one, but encouraged people to “deny our enemy of its ability to spread.”
Information regarding upcoming vaccinations will be posted on the CRDAMC Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/CRDAMC.