MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Airmen from the 6th Medical Group began redistributing doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, on Sept. 9, 2021. This comes after the Secretary of Defense issued a memorandum on Aug. 23, 2021, mandating all active duty personnel to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
“We are seeing a significant impact from the Delta variant, both worldwide and locally in the Tampa area,” said Lt. Col. Jeremy Parker, the 6 MDG Clinical Services Flight Commander. “With the new mandate, we are hoping to get all service members vaccinated as soon as possible.”
According to the Air Force updates for COVID-19, since the vaccine became available, 68.6% of the Department of the Air Force has become fully vaccinated, with 13.4% being partially vaccinated.
“There are various sources when it comes to vaccine concerns,” Parker added. “However, we cannot ignore the facts. The data we are seeing shows that vaccination is superior to natural infection, even when new variants develop.”
Locally, the 18th Air Force Commander, Maj. Gen. Kenneth T. Bibb Jr., has ordered all 6th Air Refueling Wing active duty Airmen to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 2, 2021.
The 6 MDG immediately set up a point of distribution for the vaccine at the immunizations clinic area on base in order to meet that deadline.
“We have been in the business of giving large quantities of vaccines for a long time,” said Parker. “Whether it’s the annual flu or deployment lines, this sort of thing is not new to us.”
Earlier this year, a POD was also established at a hangar on base, where roughly 1,200 vaccines were distributed each day.
“When we saw the mandate coming through, we drew on our previous experience to develop a plan in order to accommodate for the large number of patients we would be getting,” said Parker.
Several Airmen from across the 6th ARW have volunteered to help with the logistics of distribution of the vaccine due to the rise in appointments scheduled.
“The collaboration we have with the wing, Central Command, Southern Command, and all of our other tenant units on base is extremely invaluable,” said Melissa Hughes, the 6th Medical Group COVID-19 subject matter expert. “Without the collaboration from everyone, there is no way the operation would be as effective as it has been,” said Hughes.
Although the effectiveness of the vaccine and the mandate issued by the SECDEF will prove beneficial in the battle against COVID-19, it is important to continue practicing social distancing, following the CDC guidelines, and adhering to the policies put in place at every level in order to continue moving forward.
“We must all do our part in this fight,” added Hughes. “Regardless of rank, job title, or branch of service, we all belong to the greatest military in the world. We are looked up to, emulated, and respected, we must continue working together to build a resilient recovery and emerge stronger than ever before.”