ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — The Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic hosted a mass immunization clinic at the APG North (Aberdeen) Recreation Center, Jan. 14, 2022. The clinic was open to eligible APG personnel, including servicemembers, civilian and contractor employees, spouses and other family members. During the clinic, the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots were available for participants. The clinic also offered the Influenza vaccine for eligible participants.
“We were able to vaccinate hundreds of people at this clinic,” claimed Staff Sgt. Rigoberto Olmeda, KUSAHC Preventive Medicine NCO and one of the lead organizers of the mass immunization clinic.
Olmeda provided some context and background into the conception and operations of the mass clinic.
“Last month, KUSAHC got word from Garrison that a lot of people on post are going to be needing the vaccine,” he said. “In such a short amount of time, we just knew it was going to be hard to accommodate everyone at our facility, so at the last minute we set up this clinic and [Pfc. Haney] was the brains of the operation.”
Pfc. Mary Haney, a KUSAHC medic, was also one of the lead organizers of the mass clinic and was praised by her peers and supervisors for her drive and attentiveness.
“Her initiative and her ability as a Soldier to approach a problem, find a solution and execute, is what made this clinic happen,” said Olmeda. “This new year, we had similar challenges to what we had before when the whole pandemic started and we received our first batch of vaccines; but she wasn’t here for it. We got her in this time, gave her an opportunity and she identified some things that we could do differently, how we could set up stations safely and strategically, and we really just went with what she created!”
Haney explained her thought process and recognition of a potential challenge to the readiness of the installation.
“When I first arrived at Kirk, I sort of hit the ground running, identifying problems and areas of improvement,” Haney said. “So since I work as the primary immunization specialist at the clinic, I really think I have a good idea of our patient’s needs and how these clinics should flow. This time our team just tried to combine as many of those processes together as we could and create a format and layout that we can basically move to any site at any time and have the same setup and do the same thing, using guidance from resources that are already in place, such as the CDC and Army policy. It really just comes from knowing your population and community. A lot of different pieces coming together for a good cause.”
Haney is an Army Allergy and Immunology Specialist, who completed her AIT training in the U.S. Army Medical Center and School at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas.
“I’ve had the proper preparation,” said Haney. “I’ve also had a tremendous amount of support from my NCOs here. They’ve always been firm on letting me know that I am capable. All those factors, along with the characteristics that the Army instills in us constantly: time management, training skills, resource management, etc. Just following those right processes.”
Haney, a Georgia native, described some of her more personal motivations as a Soldier and as a frontline medical worker.
“It’s something that I’m really passionate about because I love efficiency and helping people,” she said. “As healthcare professionals, our job is to take care of people. That’s what we do! Just being able to do that every day is something I’m very grateful for, and I feel like most of the people I’ve worked with in the healthcare field feel a similar sense of pride in taking care of people! We’ve really tried to make this immunization process as efficient as we can, and this way we can keep our normal clinic facility operational while hosting mass off-site immunization at the same time.”
The mass clinic was a success, as 293 APG personnel and family members were reported to have received shots. To date, APG has given at least 10,000 COVID-19 vaccinations since they became available on post in January 2021.
“Overall, it’s really been a collective effort,” said Olmeda. “It’s taken a lot of brainpower from a lot of people to get something like this going and make sure it happens. It’s just not one. It takes a whole team. That’s why we’re successful; why the Army is successful.”
The Science Behind Healthcare
Deputy of Preventative Medicine and Public Health Emergency Officer Dr. W. Thomas Frank, from Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic, was in attendance during the mass clinic and shared his expertise on the health and safety of APG.
“Although we offer the shots seven days a week at our clinic facility, there are limited numbers of appointments per day,” said Frank. “This mass clinic gives as many people on post as possible a chance to get their shot right now, and we seem to be quite popular today. That’s what we want to see!”
Dr. Frank recognized the unique challenges and strengths that APG has when it comes to the logistics of immunizing a large and dynamic population.
“With our unique community of commuters and beneficiaries, who are already used to utilizing Kirk and our installation-wide healthcare services, this clinic provides them an environment that they’re comfortable with and that they trust, and I think that’s one of the main advantages our community at APG has when it comes to successfully hosting an event like this,” Frank said.
Dr. Frank also recognized and praised the APG community for their response to a common hardship, like the pandemic.
“National and local health and safety guidance has often changed, and will likely change again,” Frank stated. “Life during a pandemic requires flexibility and adaptability. Fortunately, those are attributes required of any military organization, so I think APG as a whole has been well-prepared for this sort of event.”
When asked about the progress of immunizing the population against COVID-19, Dr. Frank detailed the human aspect of living through a pandemic.
“A year ago, the virus touched fewer lives but now we see it affect so many people,” he admitted. “You likely won’t meet a single person who doesn’t know someone who’s had COVID or even been hospitalized because of it.”
Frank, like so many who are on the front lines in the battle against COVID-19, did express hope for the future of virology.
“We defeat an enemy like COVID with perseverance, time and a sense of personal responsibility,” exclaimed Frank. “A single person is not only protecting themselves, but their neighbors, their battle-buddies and their friends.”
A Community Perspective
Lisanne Blake, Supervisory Program Specialist with the Aberdeen Child Development Center, was a participant of the mass clinic and offered her thoughts on the importance of events like this on APG.
“I think this clinic is a wonderful opportunity for the community to be able to get vaccinated or the booster,” she said. “I actually, myself, just got over COVID, so I don’t want to get it again. I was very happy to have the opportunity here, today. I think APG is doing a great job in the fight against COVID with its precautionary provisions, mask mandates and clinics like this one.”
With Soldiers like Haney, and other caring professionals on APG who go above and beyond the call of duty with clinics like these, the sense of readiness, connectedness to the community, and people as the Army’s greatest asset is in the proof.
“We have to really pull together and put in the extra effort to make sure we can accomplish this particular mission,” said Haney. “It really takes that team effort!”