Pacific Regional Medical Command
HONOLULU — Installations around Oahu held a mass flu vaccination exercise, Sept. 18-20, with the goal of vaccinating as many island-based active duty service members and emergency-essential civilians as possible.
During the 72-hour exercise, more than 21,000 Department of Defense uniformed and civilian personnel were vaccinated across the island.
In previous years, each service would individually hold shot exercises where the services would immunize personnel. This year, all services coordinated and held a mass joint immunization exercise.
“We wanted to test our capability to mass immunize against a potential pandemic,” explained Lance Golder, analyst, Military Vaccine Agency. “Vaccinating over 21,000 people in three days is no small feat. (We) did it at 12 different locations with multi-service staff both working and getting vaccinated.
“One of the comments I heard over and over as I visited (the) sites is that (personnel) could immunize at least double the numbers with little effort,” Golder added.
The mass vaccination exercise used a closed point of dispensing system, or PODS, which differs from traditional vaccination or medication dispensing sites. PODS brings the vaccine to the location of Soldiers and emergency-essential civilians.
“The (point of distribution) layout at the Makai Recreation Center has been designed to accommodate approximately a 10-minute processing time for units consisting of 200 personnel,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Aimee Braxton, noncommissioned officer in charge, Hickam Immunizations Clinic and Joint Vaccine Working Group representative.
“Following a catastrophic health event, the ability to dispense medical countermeasures to affected populations quickly and efficiently is crucial,” added Thomas Bookman, emergency operations manager, Pacific Regional Medical Command and Tripler Army Medical Center.
The flu vaccine isn’t important for just service members and emergency-essential civilians. Everyone in Hawaii should consider getting vaccinated and taking precautionary measures to avoid spreading the flu.
“Each year in the U.S., approximately 25 million cases of influenza get reported,” Golder explained. “These cases result in about 150,000 hospitalizations due to serious complications.
“More than 30,000 people die from influenza annually in the U.S. alone,” Golder continued. “The seasonal influenza vaccine is one of the most beneficial tools in modern medicine for reducing sicknesses, deaths, health care costs and conserving fighting strength.
“The influenza vaccine is particularly important for everyone living in Hawaii because we see influenza cases all year around,” Golder explained. “It is important to remember that Hawaii is a gateway to the world. We have travelers arriving from both hemispheres where their peak influenza season may be in full bloom.”
Vaccines are now available to all Tricare beneficiaries at military medical treatment facilities in Hawaii. Vaccines will be available at post exchanges throughout October and local schools in October and November.
(Editor’s Note: Air Force 1st Lt. Kathleen Eisenbrey, 15th Medical Group, contributed to this article.)
For more details on flu vaccinations and schedules, visit www.tamc.amedd.army.mil/flu.