Nevada Guard leads COVID-19 vaccination effort in Las Vegas
Spc. Demetrie Barnett with Joint Task Force 17 administers the Pfizer vaccine to local residents at the Cora Coleman Senior Center, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Ryan Getsie) VIEW ORIGINAL

LAS VEGAS – Joint Task Force 17 Soldiers and Airmen have been mobilized since mid-January to assist and administer COVID-19 vaccines throughout the Las Vegas valley.

As of Feb. 16, over 304,000 doses had been administered in Clark County, with nearly 65,000 residents receiving both doses, according to the Southern Nevada Health District. There are more than 2.2 million residents in the county, so there is still a lot of work ahead.

In recent weeks, Las Vegas opened up several distribution points under the guidance of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the SNHD.

“We’re helping to support the distribution of the vaccine,” said North Las Vegas Deputy Fire Chief Travis Anderson. “... We’re administering close to two thousand doses of the vaccine per day.”

Anderson is the incident commander a the Canyon Springs High School distribution site. He manages more than a dozen Nevada Guard Task Force members and 20 volunteers at the site.

“The communication between everyone has been awesome,” said Sgt. Anna Sahagun, the Guard’s supervisor at the high school. “Everybody is very friendly and it’s easy to resolve issues as they arise. I think that contributes to the success here – we work together as a team.”

The five priority groups eligible to receive the vaccine are health care workers, Nevadans 70 years and older, Nevadans 65-69 years, public safety and security workers, and frontline community supporters.

The Silver State recently hit a milestone of roughly 500,000 vaccines distributed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite shipping challenges due to the severe weather that struck parts of the Midwest, Nevada had the ninth-highest utilization rate in the country – using 91% of its allocated vaccines compared to the national average of 85%.

“The biggest challenge is not knowing when we will be getting more vaccines,” Anderson said. “Because there are so many community partners working here, it’s hard to turn it off and then back on again if the vaccines become unavailable again.”

Despite these challenges, JTF 17 Soldiers and Airmen continue their missions and help to stand up new points of distribution throughout the valley and in surrounding areas. Four senior centers recently opened in Coleman, Parkdale, Winchester and Flamingo. Over 950 residents were vaccinated in the first week. Vaccinating the most vulnerable remains a constant focus.

The strike team officer in charge of the mobile sites at the senior centers, 1st Lt. Theodore McCord, has a team of 12 members who assist with registrations, appointments and vaccinations.

“These locations are strategically placed throughout the city,” McCord said. “We want to be able to facilitate all four areas of the valley: Northwest, Northeast, Southwest and Southeast.”

On Feb. 17, a separate group of JTF 17 personnel helped open and operate the COVID-19 site at Desert Pines High School. In just three days, over 1,900 people in that community were vaccinated.

“This is a great opportunity for me to serve my community,” McCord said. “I volunteer at my church at least four times a week, but being able to protect my community in this capacity and helping people get vaccinated is just an added blessing.”

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