Lt. Gen. Thomas James Jr., First Army commanding general, prepares to receive the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Rock Island Arsenal Health Clinic Thursday, January 14, 2021. (Photo by Warren Marlow, First Army)
Lt. Gen. Thomas James Jr., First Army commanding general, prepares to receive the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Rock Island Arsenal Health Clinic Thursday, January 14, 2021. (Photo by Warren Marlow, First Army) (Photo Credit: Warren Marlow) VIEW ORIGINAL

ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. – First Army medical personnel are protecting Soldiers, Civilians, and their community by assisting with the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Rock Island Arsenal clinic here.

The First Army Surgeon cell lent their expertise to augment the clinic in administering more than 1,200 shots. Their efforts contribute to achieving the ideal “herd immunity” of 80 to 90 percent, which can inhibit transmission of the virus from person to person.

“The COVID-19 vaccine is instrumental in keeping our Soldiers ready, healthy, and fit to deploy to get the mission done,” said Maj. Kelly Guerra, First Army senior physician assistant. “I strongly recommend the vaccine to our Soldiers as it is safe and effective and an important tool for protecting yourself and those around you. The vaccine will not only protect the individual Soldier, but their battle buddies, their families, their community, and it will lower the public health risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.”

First Army teammates are supporting logistical needs during the vaccinations, enabling doctors and nurses of the clinic to concentrate on administering the shots.

“We’re helping in support of the whole Arsenal,” said Maj. Zachary Hitchcock, First Army medical logistics officer. “The nurses and providers at the clinic are doing the vaccinations. We’re just doing the planning and getting people in the door,” he said.

Sgt.1st. Class Scott Williams, First Army medical logistics NCOIC, added that First Army Soldiers work to maintain an orderly flow of patients.

“It’s gone very smooth,” he said. “We’ve had one or two tiny hiccups where someone had the wrong time or day, but that’s an easy fix.” There are many moving pieces, so constant communication, synchronization, and planning is important, he added.

The vaccine is given in two iterations. Hitchcock explained that there is a 28-day period between dates, with both doses combining to give the vaccine a 90-percent effectiveness rate.

Since there were more individuals on Rock Island Arsenal than available doses, planners devised a priority list based on a complex criteria comprised of factors such as age, job status, and ability to work remotely.

“We look at the factory workers at the Joint Manufacturing Technology Center as one of the main priorities since their job cannot be done remotely,” Hitchcock said “We look at medical providers, essential workers that have to do face-to-face, and those critical senior leaders within the commands. And each of the commands prioritized those people based off of a very complex tiered list with subcategories.”

With First Army medical professionals supporting the efforts, the entire Rock Island Arsenal medical community is contributing to the efforts to keep Soldiers, Civilians, and the surrounding community safe from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.