By Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen KrenkeOctober 30, 2009
ARLINGTON, Va. (Oct. 29, 2009) -- The Defense Department has acquired enough doses of the H1N1 flu vaccine to immunize all 460,000 members of the National Guard, officials announced today.
The supply will go out to the Guard through the Army Medical Materiel Agency, said Lt. Col. Dawn Barrowman, chief of occupational health for the Army National Guard.
All states have ordered the H1N1 injectable vaccine through the agency, which is the same way that states order the seasonal flu vaccine.
Army Guard officials in two states, Arkansas and Indiana, plan to use the Department of Health and Human Services allotment procured by their state, said Col. Rob Brown, the Army Guard's chief surgeon.
For Air Guard personnel, the H1N1 injectable vaccine has been ordered through the active duty host base, using the same method and guidance as for the seasonal flu vaccine, said Air Force Capt. Tonya Moser, chief of medical logistics for the Air National Guard.
Shipments of the Defense Department vaccine are scheduled for the second week of November, but "exact dates will differ from state to state," Brown said.
The Defense Department has acquired 2.7 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine, which may be allocated to active-duty members, reservists, Guard members, Defense Department civilians and essential contractors, according to a department memorandum.
Despite its availability this way, Guard members are encouraged to get the vaccine through the "most expedient route," Barrowman said. This includes registered H1N1 providers or a HHS source.
Army Guard members who receive a H1N1 vaccine from another source are strongly encouraged to provide the documentation to their unit's medical readiness noncommissioned officer, Barrowman said, so the Army Guard can track the number of Soldiers who have received the vaccine.
The vaccine will be mandatory for uniformed personnel and highly encouraged for all others, according to a Defense Department memo. Priority would be given to deployed and deploying forces, new accession sites, including the service academies, and health care personnel.
Brown said the vaccine was produced by the same companies that made the seasonal flu vaccine, and it went through strict quality assurance inspections by the Food and Drug Administration before it was approved for release to the public.
He emphasized the H1N1 vaccine is the best and most effective way for people to protect themselves.
Brown also encourages Guard members to take everyday actions to stay healthy, including:
-- Covering their nose and mouth with a tissue when they cough or sneeze;
-- Washing their hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing;
-- Avoid touching their eyes, nose or mouth, because germs spread that way, and;
-- Staying home if they get sick.
(Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke serves at the National Guard Bureau.)