JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas --
Brooke Army Medical Center administered its first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to frontline medical professionals Dec. 17 as part of the Department of Defense’s initial vaccine rollout.
“I’m ready to eradicate this virus,” said Army Capt. Rebecca Parrish, a COVID-19 intensive care unit nurse, after she received BAMC’s first vaccine.
In the weeks since, BAMC has expanded the program to inpatient and outpatient medical and support personnel from across the organization to ensure the vaccine supply is appropriately and effectively used.
“Our aim is to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to patients and other team members while ensuring our staff remains healthy,” said BAMC Commanding General Brig. Gen. Shan Bagby. “Their health is critical to our mission of providing safe, quality care to our service members, retirees, family members and civilian emergency patients.”
Following CDC recommendations, DOD’s vaccine distribution plan has three phases. The first phase includes healthcare and support personnel, emergency services and public safety workers, as well as other essential workers and deploying personnel. The second phase encompasses high-risk beneficiaries, with the final phase moving to the healthy population.
With a finite supply of vaccines, BAMC is working to ensure its “healthcare heroes” remain a top priority. BAMC recently implemented a “fast pass” style system in which frontline personnel, such as from the Emergency Department and ICUs, are moved to the front of the line.
“Our frontline professionals have been working tirelessly to help others since the pandemic started,” Bagby said. “We want to do everything we can to expedite their ability to get the vaccine.”
As the vaccine supply increases, BAMC will announce the start of the next phase, which opens the program to high-risk beneficiaries, such as patients ages 65 and older, pregnant women and patients over the age of 16 with a pre-existing condition.
Once notification is made and this phase is underway, the information will be posted online and on social media that will detail how high-risk beneficiaries can inquire about their eligibility to receive a vaccine and the process for administration.
In the meantime, beneficiaries are welcome to call the San Antonio Military Health System COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline at 210-581-2266, opt. 6 for COVID-19 vaccine-related questions during duty hours, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. After duty hours, call the Defense Health Agency Immunization Support Center 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-877-438-8222.
“While our current focus is on the hospital staff to ensure we are able to protect our patients, we are absolutely keeping our valued military beneficiaries in mind as we move forward,” Bagby said. “We will provide frequent updates to ensure we are keeping everyone informed about this important program.”
The CDC recommends a combination of getting vaccinated and following safety recommendations – face coverings, handwashing and physical distancing – to achieve the best protection from COVID-19 and to help lower the public health risks associated with the pandemic.
BAMC leaders encourage those who are hesitant about getting the vaccine to discuss their concerns with medical experts or find out more information on the CDC and other government websites.
“We have a vaccine that represents an incredibly effective and safe solution that exceeded all of our initial expectations, performing well in all ages, all demographic groups tested, and with 95 percent efficacy,” said Air Force Col. Heather Yun, BAMC’s deputy commander for medical services and an infectious disease physician. “It is my hope that we will look back at this time as a return to normalcy as we safely and efficiently roll out the vaccine program at BAMC and other sites across the nation.”
For more information on the COVID vaccine as well as a list of commonly asked questions, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html. For more information on the DoD’s distribution plan, visit https://www.defense.gov/Newsroom/Releases/Release/Article/2440556/dod-announces-covid-19-vaccine-distribution-plan/
Additionally, BAMC will host a Facebook Live Town Hall featuring a panel of medical experts to provide an update on the COVID-19 vaccine program Jan. 7 at 1:30 p.m. Everyone is invited to tune in and ask questions.