FRANKFORT, Ky. — Over the weekend, the Kentucky National Guard commenced Operation Fortified Guardian, in which a surge of service members received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination.
More than 600 vaccines were administered to Army and Air Guardsmen over the weekend. As of Monday, Oct. 18, approximately 70 percent of the force have received their first vaccination and 58 percent have received their second vaccination.
At the direction of the Secretary of Defense, it is now mandatory for all service members to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The requirement to be fully vaccinated is June 30, 2022 for Army Guardsmen and Dec. 3, 2021 for Air Guardsmen. These dates take into account that many units are still meeting virtually.
Service members may request an exemption from COVID-19 vaccines for religious, health or administrative reasons, but administration of those exemptions rests with the Departments of the Army and Air Force, respectively.
"The purpose of the vaccine is to prevent serious disease," said Kentucky Army National Guard Sgt. Alecia Shultz, a 617th Military Police Company combat medic and medical non-commissioned officer for the COVID-19 mission. "This effects overall readiness and effectiveness for our troops and their units."
State Surgeon Army Lt. Col. Mark Demuth has assured Guard members that they will be thoroughly screened for contraindications prior to receiving the vaccine, and his team of physician assistants and combat medics are well versed in the benefits and risks associated with the vaccine. The Office of the State Surgeon is available to service members to answer any questions regarding the vaccine.
"The COVID-19 Delta variant is targeting our unvaccinated Soldiers and Airmen," said Demuth. "Sadly, across the Guard nationwide, we have already lost 10 service members due to COVID. As a force, we cannot afford another tragic loss."
The Kentucky National Guard will continue administering the vaccine until all service members are protected against COVID-19.
For the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic support, the Kentucky Guard still has a presence in 20 hospitals across the commonwealth and more than 300 service members still on duty.