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Round one: 934th Airlift Wing delivers first round of COVID-19 vaccinations

Tech. Sgt. Joshua Cox, 934th Civil Engineering Squadron emergency management squadron craftsmen, receives his COVID-19 vaccine from Senior Master Sgt. Bradly Mortenson, 934th Aeromedical Staging Squadron superintendent, at Minneapolis-St. Paul Air Reserve Station on Jan. 22, 2021. The 934th Airlift Wing initiated the distribution of the vaccine in an effort to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chris Farley)

Tech. Sgt. Joshua Cox, 934th Civil Engineering Squadron emergency management squadron craftsmen, receives his COVID-19 vaccine from Senior Master Sgt. Bradly Mortenson, 934th Aeromedical Staging Squadron superintendent, at Minneapolis-St. Paul Air Reserve Station on Jan. 22, 2021. The 934th Airlift Wing initiated the distribution of the vaccine in an effort to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chris Farley)

Staff Sgt. Amanda Thao, 934th Security Forces Squadron, receives her COVID-19 vaccine from a 934th Aeromedical Staging Squadron medical technician at Minneapolis-St.Paul Air Reserve Station on Jan. 22, 2021. The 934th Airlift Wing initiated the distribution of the vaccine in an effort to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chris Farley)

Staff Sgt. Amanda Thao, 934th Security Forces Squadron, receives her COVID-19 vaccine from a 934th Aeromedical Staging Squadron medical technician at Minneapolis-St. Paul Air Reserve Station on Jan. 22, 2021. The 934th Airlift Wing initiated the distribution of the vaccine in an effort to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chris Farley)

Col. Christopher Lay, 934th Airlift Wing commander, receives his COVID-19 vaccine from a 934th Aeromedical Staging Squadron medical technician at Minneapolis-St. Paul Air Reserve Station on Jan. 22, 2021. The 934th Airlift Wing initiated the distribution of the vaccine in an effort to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chris Farley)

Col. Christopher Lay, 934th Airlift Wing commander, receives his COVID-19 vaccine from a 934th Aeromedical Staging Squadron medical technician at Minneapolis-St. Paul Air Reserve Station on Jan. 22, 2021. The 934th Airlift Wing initiated the distribution of the vaccine in an effort to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chris Farley)

Major (Doctor) William Wilson, 934th Airlift Wing public health emergency officer, briefs 934 AW Airmen and civilians prior to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine at Minneapolis-St. Paul Air Reserve Station on Jan. 22, 2021. The 934th Airlift Wing initiated the distribution of the vaccine in an effort to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chris Farley).

Major (Doctor) William Wilson, 934th Airlift Wing public health emergency officer, briefs 934 AW Airmen and civilians prior to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine at Minneapolis-St. Paul Air Reserve Station on Jan. 22, 2021. The 934th Airlift Wing initiated the distribution of the vaccine in an effort to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chris Farley).

MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL AIR RESERVE STATION, Minn. – A batch of the COVID-19 vaccine arrived at the 934th Airlift Wing, Jan. 21, 2021, with members on the installation receiving the vaccine the following morning in accordance with the installation plan.

For nearly a year now, 934 AW Airmen have continued to support efforts associated with neutralizing the COVID-19 pandemic to protect our people, maintain readiness, and support national response efforts.

To date, there has been over 24 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. with more than 400,000 people losing their lives to the virus. With a new hope in the vaccine, the 934 AW Global Vikings plan to help the nation stop the spread of the virus.

In accordance with Department of Defense guidelines, the 934 AW vaccine distribution is following a phased approach, with initial doses offered on a volunteer basis to first responders and mission-essential personnel operating on the frontlines of the pandemic. Although the vaccine is currently not mandatory, it is an important part of the way forward.

“The health of our Airmen and our community remains our top priority,” said Col. Chris Lay, 934 AW commander. “With this vaccine, we are taking an incredible step forward with current public health measures and the phased approach for the vaccine which includes our first responders and medical personnel so that we can continue to serve the community and preserve our ability to accomplish the mission. Patience and trust are paramount as we move forward in our fight against this virus.”

After what seems like a long and daunting year in 2020, the initial shipment of COVID-19 vaccines mark what infectious disease experts predict will be a turning point in the pandemic.

The first 934th AW Airmen to receive the COVID-19 vaccine was Tech. Sgt. Joshua Cox an emergency management craftsman with the 934th Civil Engineering Squadron.     

"It’s nice to know DoD is looking out for its people and they are willing to get the shot out fast for everyone they’re responsible for," said Cox. 

Administering the vaccine is a task that the 934th Aeromedical Staging Squadron is primed to tackle over the next several months. This will require extensive manpower to administer the doses and annotate each member's records. Additionally, as with all new medical advances, healthcare professionals are closely monitoring for any adverse reactions, but thus far the benefits outweigh the risks.

“We’re tremendously proud of the ASTS team and everything that we accomplished in preparation for administering this landmark vaccine,” said Captain Jon Polos, 934th ASTS Director of Medical Operations. “Many hours were spent developing flow charts, spacing plans for social distancing and other efforts for this roll-out to ensure we efficiently and effectively take care of our population.”

Now that the first round of vaccinations are underway, another obstacle medical professionals are faced with is working to debunk the myths that the vaccines are not safe or effective. Vaccines fight disease by producing an immune response within the body. Sometimes that means flu-like symptoms, such as aches, headache and fever. This is normal and a sign that your body is creating antibodies to protect you from COVID-19.

“When given, the purpose of a vaccine is to produce an immune response,” said Major (Doctor) William Wilson, 934 AW Public Health Emergency Officer. “The only way a vaccine can be

approved for use is after it is demonstrated to be safe and effective in various clinical trials, have been authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and have been manufactured and distributed safely and securely. This is all similar to how we operate in the military.”

Although the vaccine distribution is taking place, it is vital that Airmen continue mitigation efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Even when you do get your vaccine it is still important to practice social distancing, frequently wash your hands, and wear your mask,” said Chayo Smith, 934 AW Chief of Bioenvironmental engineering. “We need to continue to protect others as we are in the process of waiting for the vaccine to roll-out to everyone. Remaining diligent and practicing public health mitigation techniques helps us to live our Core Values and protect our community as Reserve Citizen Airmen.”

After Airmen received the first dose of the vaccine, they were required to wait approximately 15 minutes before leaving. The vaccine requires two doses per person, separated by about four weeks between doses.