Joint Task Force-Homeland Defense
Public Affairs Office
FORT SHAFTER — The Department of Defense is donating more than 10,000 doses of excess influenza vaccine to its Pacific island partners through the U.S./Pacific Islands Vaccine Program.
In the U.S. alone, seasonal influenza kills approximately 36,000 people each year; the victims are primarily infants and the elderly.
The vaccination is mandatory for active duty and recommended to all DOD beneficiaries who can receive it.
Invariably, despite efforts to have everyone vaccinated, DOD ends up with excess vaccine that is destroyed at the end of the influenza season, or when the vaccine expires.
Joint Task Force-Homeland Defense, or JTF-HD, recognized the need in the US/PI for influenza vaccine and noted the excess influenza vaccine available through DOD. JTF-HD began the US/PI Vaccine Program during the 2006-2007 flu season in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands.
“The US/PI Vaccine Program is a collaborative effort between DOD, U.S. Coast Guard, Pacific Island(s) public health communities and the private sector airline industry,” said Michelle Garcia, interagency coordinator, JTF-HD. “Without them, this important program would not be possible.”
JTF-HD works with local jurisdictions to identify the requirement and coordinate the vaccine delivery. The U.S. Army Medical Material Agency obtains the excess DOD vaccine nationwide before it is shipped to the Military Vaccine Agency and packaged by the Division of Logistics at Tripler Army Medical Center.
Forts Campbell, Benning, Gordon, Carson, Bragg and the Naval Academy participated this year by donating more than 10,000 doses of influenza vaccine.
The Defense Logistics Agency donated temperature gauges to help ensure the vaccine is kept at an appropriate temperature throughout the journey. These items are valued at more than $5,000. This year’s shipments total $86,000 and are being delivered to American Samoa by Hawaiian Airlines and to Guam, Saipan, Kosrae and Majuro by the U.S. Coast Guard.
“This is always a great experience for me,” said George Kaanana, cargo sales manager, Hawaiian Airlines. “The good folks at (U.S. Army Medical Command) and JTF-HD recognize the need is always there, and they act upon it. I’m very proud to work with these people.”
Receiving a flu shot protects not only the recipient, but also all those people who work closely or live with the vaccine recipient, extending the benefit of the vaccines beyond the actual number of doses shipped.
“This program enables Pacific Islanders to be immunized against influenza, which is a year-round disease in the tropics,” said Daniel Copp, medical planner, JTF-HD.
Deliveries began March 13 and will continue through April to various locations. Hawaiian Airlines has and continues to provide the transportation at no cost.
“It gives us a great feeling, and it’s an honor to be involved with this great opportunity,” Kaanana said.
Headquartered here, JTF-HD maintains situational awareness of all domains within the joint operations area. It executes mission command of assigned forces in its land domain to conduct Homeland Defense operations that deter and defeat threats to critical infrastructure and key resources.
When requested or validated, JTF-HD also conducts civil support operations in response to hazards to mitigate human suffering and reduce infrastructure damage.