WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. (April 13, 2021) – In response to the coronavirus pandemic, McAfee U.S. Army Health Clinic at White Sands Missile Range launched an aggressive vaccination campaign and obtained an ultra-low freezer to store the vaccinations safely.
In 2020, the announcement went out that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccinations would soon be available with specific temperature storage requirements. After the announcement, Lt. Col. Aaron Braxton II, McAfee U.S. Army Health Clinic Commander, and his team knew that the vaccine's distribution and storage efforts would prove to be a challenge due to the distance and large size of the installation.
“As a remote location, we faced limitations due to storage options for the Pfizer vaccine since it needs specialized equipment involving the use of an ultra-low temperature freezer,” said Braxton. “Vaccines stored at a temperature greater than negative 80 degrees Celsius (negative 112 degrees Fahrenheit) must be used within five days.”
Despite the limitations, vaccinating the White Sands Missile Range community with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine began on Jan. 7, 2021.
Initially, the clinic dealt with the vaccine time restrictions through logistical means and working with the White Sands Missile Range G-3 operations team. The teamwork proved effective with White Sands Missile Range currently in phase two for vaccine distribution, which aligns with the plan phases set out by the Department of Defense. The undertaking also supports the Army's mission to protect the force and support the national effort to fight against the COVID-19 virus.
The storage challenges are no longer a concern; through collaboration with the Aerospace Data Facility-Southwest, commanded by Col. Michael C. Todd, Space Operations Group, the clinic is now equipped with a Stirling Ultracold ultra-low temperature freezer. The Aerospace Data Facility-Southwest is one of the tenant organizations on White Sands Missile Range, located on the far west edge of the range within NASA-Johnson Space Center's White Sands Test Facility.
“Securing the ultra-low temperature freezer will pave the way for McAfee to become a direct-distribution site,” said Sgt. 1st Class Nick Reasons, Detachment Sergeant at McAfee U.S. Army Health Clinic. “We will now be able to offer long-term plans for distribution well past five days, with the ability to plan for months at a time.”
For more information on obtaining a vaccination at White Sands Missile Range, visit: https://informatics-stage.health.mil/COVAX/