FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – One year after the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States, Col. Jeremy D. Bell, Fort Campbell garrison commander, and other garrison leaders, rolled up their sleeves Jan. 21 to receive one of the vaccines aimed at ending the worldwide pandemic.
“I appreciate the vaccine phase of COVID because I’ve been at this for a year, the garrison has been at this for a year, Fort Campbell has been at this for a year,” Bell said, after getting the first of two Pfizer vaccinations at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital. “We’ve gone through many stages with the virus, but at each and every stage it’s about responsible decision making.”
Based upon briefings with health experts and his own research, Bell said he believes the vaccine to be safe and urges others to also research and then get vaccinated, so they too can help protect them-selves and others.
“I wanted to demonstrate to my workforce and to the greater Fort Campbell community through my example, that it is safe, it is effective and honestly, that it protects the installation,” Bell said. “This is just my small part.”
Long-awaited vaccine rolls out
Fort Campbell began receiving the Pfizer vaccine in late December and early January. Health care and emergency services workers on the front line of the pandemic received the first doses. Others who qualify are being alerted when it is their turn to get the vaccine, based on scheduled phases and sub-tiers, according to the Department of Defense website.
Blanchfield Army Community Hospital staff are in Phase 1B of the schedule, said Col. Patrick T. Birch-field, BACH commander.
Phase 1B includes vaccinating those with national critical capabilities, personnel preparing to deploy outside the United States, personnel deploying within three months, Department of Defense beneficiaries older than 75 and frontline essential workers like medical personnel.
“Today, we started vaccinating some of our critical infrastructure civilians here on Fort Campbell, so we had the garrison commander, sergeant major and the deputy garrison commander,” Birchfield said in a Jan. 21 video posted to BACH’s Facebook page. “Because they are part of the critical infrastructure that helps keep Fort Campbell going in an emergency, their turn came up for vaccination as well as some of the directors for garrison services.”
Jonathan Hunter, Fort Campbell deputy garrison commander, also was vaccinated Jan. 21 at BACH.
“We have about 8,000 civilian team members that are critical to readiness here at Fort Campbell,” Hunter said. “Protecting ourselves helps protect the force, so the force can protect the nation.”
By getting the first of two COVID-19 vaccinations, Hunter also can tell others what the experience was like.
“Having gone through it, I can tell you it’s painless,” he said.
Command Sergeant Major Joseph G. Harbour, senior enlisted adviser for the garrison, was also vac-cinated Jan. 21, and is expected to return Feb. 11 for the second round of the Pfizer vaccine.
“We always talk about how leaders lead from the front and never ask your Soldiers to do anything you would not do,” Harbour said in BACH’s Facebook video. “So, I decided it was important that I take the vaccine to show the Soldiers that, even though it’s under emergency authorization, it is still safe. It has been through the clinical trials and history has shown us the best way to get through a pandemic is through vaccinations.”
Vaccination against the COVID-19 virus is voluntarily, although the DOD may require it for military personnel or workers in specific fields after the vaccine is formally licensed by the Food and Drug Administration, according to the Department of Defense website.
It’s also vital to follow up with the second dose. Those who get the first vaccination will be sent re-minders, said Sgt. 1st Class Jacqueline Moore, the team lead for one of BACH’s three vaccine clinic teams.
Moore has been vaccinated and said the injections were no worse than a typical flu shot.
“Patients seem to be surprised when we’re giving it,” she said. “They’re like, what, you’re already done and it’s not even hurting them. A few say, ‘ouch,’ but that’s about it.”
Masks still a must
Even as Fort Campbell gears up to vaccinate Fort Campbell’s population over the coming months, officials remind those who get vaccinated to continue wearing face masks, continue social distancing and practice frequent handwashing.
Bell said he and others will continue wearing facemasks.
“Even though we are getting vaccines, it does not change our posture here on Fort Campbell,” he said. “First, you have to achieve at least a 70% vaccination rate to get a community immunity. Two, you still have a risk of transmission, so we will still be in masks, doing social distancing and encouraging the hygienic practices.”