FORT KNOX, Ky. — The number of people walking into the Fort Knox vaccination site for their first and second-dose shots each day recently averaged around 150-200.
Starting this week, that number dropped to about 40.
“We’ve seen a drastic decline in demand,” said Capt. Shantyl Galloway, officer in charge of the site. “In fact, we’ve decreased our availability down from 550 a day to 200 a day because the demand just isn’t there.”
The numbers reflect a similar drop across the nation.
Sergeant 1st Class Demetrius Roberson, senior noncommissioned officer at the site, has been there since members of U.S. Army Cadet Command stood up the site in January. He said several people initially showed up to do their part in reducing the curve of COVID-19.
“For the whole year leading up to the vaccine, we were just buying time for the vaccine to be made and produced,” said Roberson. “Once we received the vaccine, that’s when we started the offensive to really take care of the community and fight back.”
The site received a large batch of Moderna brand vaccines in January to meet the demand, but officials were unsure what that demand would look like since the Department of Defense announced that taking vaccine was voluntary.
“We didn’t know what to expect with who would want it, but we wanted to make sure we had enough so those people who did want it could get it,” said Galloway. “We’ve made a projection through the end of June, expecting to have at least a remaining 2,000 doses after we’ve vaccinated everybody through that month.”
Galloway said the projections are being made to determine if redistribution needs to occur because some installations are seeing a surplus of vaccines while others are experiencing a shortage. Moderna doses can stay in the freezer up to six months, and up to 30 days once moved to refrigeration.
Projections may be difficult to determine as PCS season fast approaches. Another change that could affect the numbers could be an announcement from the Department of Defense that vaccines have been made mandatory. No such announcement has been made yet.
“All of that will completely change everything,” Galloway said.
According to current data, about 11,000 people have received either the first or both doses to date. The vast majority of those occurred earlier this year.
“Once other locations in the [area] opened up that were vaccinating people in conjunction with us, it started to dwindle a little bit here,” said Roberson. “In that first wave, it was people who absolutely wanted the vaccine. We’ve exhausted those people who undoubtedly wanted the vaccine and now we’re at a point where who’s left are those people on the fence.”
Roberson said their game plan now is to educate the remaining populace.
One way is to emphasize the facts.
“From a public health standpoint, vaccination is the single-most important thing we could ever do to stay safe,” said Roberson. “We’ve seen that throughout history with flu or any other virus that has affected people in the military.”
Galloway said many people are concerned about the second shot, especially when they hear others talk about how their bodies reacted to it.
“Typically people will have a reaction to the first shot if they’ve had COVID in the past, and that’s because their body has been exposed already,” said Galloway. “The same scenario when they get the second dose. They get the first dose to kind of introduce the body to those antibodies. Then that second dose will be the bigger immune response. That’s the cause for the heightened symptoms; it’s not a bad thing.
“But it’s not a bad thing if you don’t have symptoms either.”
Another issue Galloway highlighted was a rumor among some that the vaccine will prevent people from getting COVID. That is not the case.
“There’s no shield of armor that’s stopping the virus from entering your body,” said Galloway. “But when the virus does enter your body, the immune response will kill it off.”
Galloway said their efforts to educate the public are having a positive effect.
“I believe the educational effort is working, not only from Fort Knox efforts but also in the United States in general,” said Galloway. “It’s definitely being talked about now and is well known.”
Another recent announcement may also encourage people to get the vaccine.
A May 13 memo from the office of the Secretary of Defense states that fully vaccinated DoD personnel will no longer be required to wear masks indoors or outdoors at DoD facilities. However, Fort Knox specific guidance on masks is still being finalized.
Editor’s Note: To make an appointment or receive more information, visit https://ireland.tricare.mil/ or call 502-626-7468.