CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait — Military and civilian medical professionals deployed here received their second dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, all part of the initial vaccinations in the Middle East theater Feb. 17.
“It is going quite well,” said Col. Belinda Coakley, who is leading the vaccination effort for 3rd Medical Command.
The personnel receiving their second dose in this iteration received their first dose Jan. 18, she said.
Coakley said, “The vaccine rollout is going well because we’ve done several checks and balances and mitigations, such as, checking out all of the freezers and refrigerators to make sure they are running at the right temperature.”
The Moderna vaccine must be transported frozen, she said. Once the vaccine is thawed, it can be used for 30 days, as long as it is refrigerated, and it cannot be frozen again. Once a vial’s seal is broken, the vaccine is only good for six hours.”
Monday, two boxes of frozen vaccine doses were picked up by a Black Hawk helicopter and taken each to two other Kuwait installations, Camp Buehring and Camp Ali Al Salem.
Personnel are scheduled for their shots in groups and they report to the camp hospital for a three-step process, she said.
“Twenty to 25 are coming in at a time, and when they first get checked in, they receive a briefing from a medical provider. After receiving the briefing, they are then escorted around to the vaccination area,” she said.
“After they receive their vaccines, they are escorted to another area, where they sit down and they are observed for 30 minutes,” she said.
She said, “Many times, they ask: ‘What kind of side effects can I be looking for?’”
“We tell them to look for redness or pain at the injection site—you may have a low-grade temperature, and you could have with that low-grade temperature some aches and pains. Those are really just responses from your body to the vaccine in your body doing its natural immune system reactions," the colonel said.
A healthy immune system will have some reaction, she said.
“Any time something foreign is introduced to the body, the body wants to react with: ‘I understand I have something in me that is not right,'” she said.
Lt. Col. Harold Yu, the deputy surgeon for Area Support Group-Kuwait and the officer-in-charge of the U.S. Army Health Clinic Kuwait, said he received his second vaccine dose Monday.
“With the limited amount of vaccinations, I think things went very well--we planned ahead way in advance,” he said.
Yu said when he went to get his own vaccination, it was all very methodical, starting with the briefing for everyone in his scheduled chock.
“We sat down and went through the vaccine information sheet to know about any potential side effects that could happen,” he said. “We had a registration form, and we had a nurse explain any possible side effects and asked us if we had any more questions.”
Yu said after the vaccination, he was given a vaccination card to keep with him as a record of the injection. The vaccination was also entered into his profile on MedPros, formally the Medical Protection System, which is the Army’s medical readiness database.
“You know, I can’t say that I like shots, but I think vaccinations are very, very important,” he said.
“This vaccination is no different from any other shot I ever got. Really, I didn’t even feel it,” he said.
“After the first shot, I didn’t even feel any soreness in the arm. That’s just me. Everyone’s reaction is a little different,” Yu said. “This vaccine is very important, and everyone should get it.”
Lt. Col. Anisa Garcia, the assistant deputy director of clinical services at the hospital here, said during the vaccination rollout, she is in charge of the observation step.
“Today, my role is to monitor for symptoms post-COVID-19 vaccination injection—for the second dose,” she said.
“So far, we’ve been doing really great, very mild—if anything—very mild tenderness to the arm that the vaccine has been administered to,” she said.
Some vaccination recipients may experience some itching, a rash or some minor body aches, but it is nothing that cannot be handled by over-the-counter medications, she said.
There is nothing to have anxiety about, she said.
“Don’t be scared. Don’t be worried, so far, it’s been great,” she said.
“If you can, rest, but otherwise, you should be great,” Garcia said.
“My advice to somebody about to get the vaccine is that if you like, pre-medicate, maybe take an aspirin or acetaminophen, come in and take a deep breath, roll up your sleeve and get that shot—and you should be good to go for your next shift.”