MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE BARSTOW, Calif. --
Administration of the vaccines for Novel Coronavirus 2019, more commonly known as COVID-19, are in full swing aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, California, which began March 2.
Paramedics, Navy corpsmen, a nurse and organizers gathered documentation, reviewed medical questionnaires, and then administered the vaccinations to dozens of base personnel on the Yermo Annex.
“So far we have received 100 vaccines to administer,” said Registered Nurse Michelle Wolfe, Occupational Health Detachment Barstow, who was overseeing the event and administering the bulk of the shots. “Lieutenant Colonel LaBarron McBride is organizing the vaccination process and the vaccines are coming in batches of 100. We are varying the location by the day, doing some on the Nebo side, then some on the Yermo Annex.”
McBride sent an email to directors and supervisors advising them of the process and providing the necessary documentation. Personnel are afforded the opportunity to either Opt In or Opt Out of the vaccination process.
“In preparation for receiving the vaccinations there are some administrative requirements regarding Opt In/Out and medical screening,” McBride stated. “The Opt In/Out requirement is two-fold.”
Personnel work with their supervisors to fill in the appropriate roster in order to track that everyone was afforded the opportunity to receive the vaccine. They then fill out the Defense Health Agency form to acknowledge receipt of the education material and Opt In or Out for the vaccine. Either way, forms are turned over to Nurse Wolfe and the Occupational Health staff.
“For those that Opt In, they hold their paperwork until their appointment day to receive the vaccine then turn it in to Occ Health staff,” McBride stated.
The documentation ensures that everyone has had the opportunity presented to them, and whether they got the vaccine or chose not to, as well as the type of vaccine administered.
“The vaccine we are giving today is the Moderna version which requires two shots,” Wolfe explained. “The first shot introduces your immune system to what is basically the hull or transportation device for COVID-19. It does not contain the actual virus. That part has been removed. This allows your body to prime your immune system. It’s not going to give you the virus, but it may make you tired and your arm may be sore for a couple of days.”
The second shot is administered approximately 28 days later.
“The second shot is basically like a dress rehearsal for your immune system,” she said. “Your immune system will recognize it, and it will respond to the second shot, as it should. You may experience a fever, body aches, feel exhausted, and just be miserable. It may feel like a miserable hangover, or feel like you’re coming down with the flu. For that reason, we are planning to do the second shot later in the appropriate week, so that you can have a longer weekend to recover from the vaccination. This is normal and nothing to be concerned about.”
There are two other versions of the vaccine available elsewhere, which are administered differently, as well.
“Johnson & Johnson has one that was recently approved by the FDA that is a single vaccine shot,” said Emergency Medical Services Chief Greg Kunkel with Fire and Emergency Services. “The Pfizer vaccine, which was approved at the same time as the Moderna vaccine, is very similar in that it has a two shot series, as well.”
One of the reasons that the base is using the Moderna vaccine is the specific storage requirements for Pfizer.
“We do not have capability to properly store Pfizer vaccine here,” Wolfe said. “It requires special freezers that hold temps down at -80 degrees Celsius (-112 Fahrenheit) and we don’t have them. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine is not out where we can access it yet. It is just beginning to be released and we have already begun with Moderna, so we will be staying with Moderna. Vaccines given at Fort Irwin are also Moderna. So, if anyone received a first dose at Fort Irwin and needs a second dose, we will be able to supply those here at some point soon.”
One of the unique aspects of this vaccine is that it covers more than immunity gained from actually having the disease.
“When you contract COVID, once you recover, you develop an immunity to that particular strain of the disease,” Wolfe said. “Like the flu, if you’re then exposed later to another strain, you can contract that strain, too. With this vaccine, it vaccinates against the outer delivery system of the virus, the shell, the hull or the transporting device, thereby causing immunity to multiple strains in one set of shots.”
She also allayed concerns about the quick creation of the vaccine.
“There are two watchdog organizations overseeing the creation of this vaccine, and both are saying that the methods used, and the quality of the product are the best they’ve ever seen. No shortcuts were used to create this vaccine,” Wolfe said. “Instead, they just had so much money invested in this, and people, experts in virology, who worked tirelessly to make this happen.”
People with pre-existing health conditions, immunity disorders, or may be pregnant or breast feeding are instructed to work closely with their healthcare providers and to follow their guidance regarding the Moderna vaccination. Also talk to the nurse at the vaccine administration event.
“Pregnant and breastfeeding moms can get the vaccine,” Wolfe said. “Please talk to me to discuss this before receiving the vaccine. There is more information that needs to be given before those moms receive the COVID vaccine.”
Another thing to keep in mind is that the efficacy of the vaccine is still being studied. The University of California, Davis’ Health Department released the following statement:
Coronavirus vaccines are still so new that more time is needed to study how long immunity lasts. Studies currently available show that people who were vaccinated
had a very strong immunity to COVID-19. It looks like immunity will last a while,
but researchers need to follow immune levels over time. At this point, we're not sure
if immunity will last a year or 10 years, or if there will be a need for a booster shot
at some point.
Although the base has begun receiving sets of 100 and administering COVID vaccinations at a time, it is uncertain when the doses will arrive, or how much the base will receive, as a whole. Caution is still strongly urged.
“Our command has advocated strongly for the people of this base and I am confident that we will be able to vaccinate everyone who wants the vaccine fairly soon,” Wolfe said. “We ask for patience with the process and for everyone to keep checking with your supervisors and Occ health to stay informed about the latest releases of vaccine. In the interim, please use the tools you currently have to stay safe like appropriate social distancing and mask wearing. We are not on safe ground yet.”