The 55th Medical Group COVID Cell began administering initial doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to frontline healthcare workers Jan. 6.
Offutt received the vaccine as part of Operation Warp Speed, which is a national initiative to safely vaccinate the American public.
“It’s a tremendous relief to start finally rolling out the vaccine,” said Maj. (Dr.) Elaina Wild, Offutt Public Health Emergency Officer. “It’s going to make a very significant change to the way we respond to COVID-19 over 2021. The faster we can get it in arms, the better [the response] is going to be and the quicker we can get back to a new normal.”
Offutt will use a phased approach to vaccinate personnel.
In Phase 1, health care workers and first responders will be vaccinated followed by those who support critical national capabilities or who are scheduled to deploy. Phase 2 will include high-risk beneficiaries while Phase 3 will vaccinate the remaining population considered healthy.
Col. Gavin Marks, 55th Wing commander, also received the vaccine to lead by example, to help reinforce its safety, to calm concerns, and to emphasize the necessity in putting an end to the pandemic.
“I got my vaccine today, on camera, because I thought it was important for me to put action behind my words,” Marks said. “Please come and get your vaccine so that you can do your part for our mission, for your unit, for our installation, for our Air Force, and for our nation and our world.”
Dr. Wild said it is normal to experience mild side effects from the COVID vaccine similar to that of a flu shot or other vaccines.
“The reason you have side effects is because your body is doing what it is meant to be doing,” she said. “Your body is mounting an immune response to the vaccine that we are giving you and it is building antibodies to the COVID-19 virus.”
Offutt members should still get the vaccine if they have had COVID-19 as immunity is only expected to last for 90 days.
Additionally, Offutt personnel should continue to wear a mask and social distance after they receive the vaccine as they will still be susceptible to contracting the virus with milder symptoms that could be contagious.
Offutt personnel should expect to receive notifications from their chain of command as more shipments of the vaccine are received based on their priority in the phased vaccination plan.
Airman 1st Class Thomas Jobson, a medic from the 55th Medical Operations Squadron, participated in administering the initial vaccinations. He said he was humbled to be a part of something so significant.
“This is the first real pandemic that’s ever hit my life,” he said. “I definitely appreciate the opportunity; as an Air Force medic, as an American, and as a human being, just to be on the front line of getting over this.”