Guard's mobile team vaccinates residents of San Juan Islands
Service members with Joint Task Force Steelhead's mobile vaccination team board a Washington State ferry en route to Orcas Island, Washington, March 2, 2021. The Washington National Guard’s Joint Task Force Steelhead MVT travels around the state, delivering and administering the COVID-19 vaccine to high-risk communities and remote areas. (Photo Credit: Senior Airman Mckenzie Airhart) VIEW ORIGINAL

CAMP MURRAY, Wash. – Tears of joy and sighs of relief greeted members of the Washington National Guard’s mobile vaccination team in late February when they began administering vaccines on the San Juan Islands.

As the Guardsmen set up the vaccination site, community members gathered around, adding music and food as many people saw their neighbors for the first time in months.

MVT specializes in reaching Washington residents in high-risk communities and remote areas. Many San Juan Islands residents were skeptical they would be vaccinated due to their remote location.

“Everyone was so welcoming and appreciative of us being there," said Sgt. Valorie Reed, a combat medic working on the MVT. “For many people I talked to, getting the vaccine is a step closer to being able to travel to see family and friends again. I’m grateful that we were able to fulfill a need in the community.”

Employees of the town bakery brought pastries and people donated pizza for lunches. One person even played the piano while patients waited to be vaccinated.

“There was an intense happiness to be there,” said Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Teets, an operations coordinator for the MVT.

The MVT’s mission hit a snag when inclement weather temporarily halted the distribution of the vaccine across Washington in late-February. Undeterred, the MVT returned on March 1.

The Washington State Department of Health requested the MVT team's help to ensure that people have access to the COVID-19 vaccine regardless of their location. Members of the team are nationally certified and licensed medical providers with the same qualifications as their civilian counterparts administering vaccines. The MVT will return to the San Juan Islands soon to provide the second dose of the vaccine.

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