Nationwide Guard Gives Covid Vaccine Assist in Overwhelmed States


LANDOVER, Md. – When tens of thousands of his colleagues in the National Guard came to the country’s capital to ensure the peaceful transfer of power from the President, Emmanuel Alfaro did what he saw as the highlight of his career in the Guard: administering Covid-19 -Vaccines to his fellow citizens.

“It is a highlight to come out and help the public,” said Alfaro, a senior Air National Guard Airman and Paramedic whose normal job is to help out at health centers in Maryland.

As the pandemic rages across the country and a vaccination program to combat the pandemic continues to cause problems, governors are increasingly turning to the National Guard to help expedite the process. At least 16 states and territories use guard members to fire shots, with the help of doctors, nurses, medical professionals, and other injection-savvy individuals.

Many other states have thousands more security guards for logistical tasks, such as: These include assembling and moving vaccine kits, registering patients, and checking lines at government vaccination centers. In West Virginia, for example, about 100 guards are helping with distribution across the state.

“We are a logistical operation here,” said Maj. Holli Nelson, a spokeswoman for the local Guard. “That’s what the military does best.”

The growing Guard presence is a stark reminder that even as the country has been ravaged by the Capitol attack last week, a pandemic continues to afflict any state struggling to expedite a complex vaccination program without modern precedent.

As of January last year, 1 in 14 people living in the United States have been infected with the coronavirus, and at least 1 in 862 has died. States like California and Arizona, with some of the most infections in the nation, are struggling with exhaustion among healthcare workers and flooding in their medical centers.

“States are naturally looking for alternative ways to get out of the limited vaccine supply,” said Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers. “We see more and more states that use the National Guard and think bigger.”

In Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan originally planned to distribute vaccines largely through private health care providers and drugstore chains, and later to set up state clinics. When Mr. Hogan found out last week that the private sector has been unable to get up and running as soon as hoped, he reached out to 140 Maryland National Guard members to help with pop-up sites in three counties, and will Add six more next week to help county and state health officials.

States have struggled to preserve the roughly 30 million doses of vaccines given to Americans by the Trump administration. Demand for vaccines has significantly exceeded supply, even though some Americans who qualified for an early dose turned it down, leading the federal government and states to adjust their guidelines on who can get it first.

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Answers to your vaccine questions

If I live in the US, when can I get the vaccine?

While the exact order of vaccine recipients may vary from state to state, most doctors and residents of long-term care facilities will come first. If you want to understand how this decision is made, this article will help.

When can I get back to normal life after the vaccination?

Life will only get back to normal once society as a whole receives adequate protection against the coronavirus. Once countries have approved a vaccine, they can only vaccinate a few percent of their citizens in the first few months. The unvaccinated majority remain susceptible to infection. A growing number of coronavirus vaccines show robust protection against disease. However, it is also possible that people spread the virus without knowing they are infected because they have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. Scientists don’t yet know whether the vaccines will also block the transmission of the coronavirus. Even vaccinated people have to wear masks for the time being, avoid the crowds indoors and so on. Once enough people are vaccinated, it becomes very difficult for the coronavirus to find people at risk to become infected. Depending on how quickly we as a society achieve this goal, life could approach a normal state in autumn 2021.

Do I still have to wear a mask after the vaccination?

Yeah, but not forever. The two vaccines that may be approved this month clearly protect people from contracting Covid-19. However, the clinical trials that produced these results were not designed to determine whether vaccinated people could still spread the coronavirus without developing symptoms. That remains a possibility. We know that people who are naturally infected with the coronavirus can spread it without experiencing a cough or other symptoms. Researchers will study this question intensively when the vaccines are introduced. In the meantime, self-vaccinated people need to think of themselves as potential spreaders.

Will it hurt What are the side effects?

The vaccine against Pfizer and BioNTech, like other typical vaccines, is delivered as a shot in the arm. The injection is no different from the ones you received before. Tens of thousands of people have already received the vaccines, and none of them have reported serious health problems. However, some of them have experienced short-lived symptoms, including pain and flu-like symptoms that usually last a day. It is possible that people will have to plan to take a day off or go to school after the second shot. While these experiences are not pleasant, they are a good sign: they are the result of your own immune system’s encounter with the vaccine and a strong response that ensures lasting immunity.

Will mRNA vaccines change my genes?

No. Moderna and Pfizer vaccines use a genetic molecule to boost the immune system. This molecule, known as mRNA, is eventually destroyed by the body. The mRNA is packaged in an oily bubble that can fuse with a cell, allowing the molecule to slide inside. The cell uses the mRNA to make proteins from the coronavirus that can stimulate the immune system. At any given moment, each of our cells can contain hundreds of thousands of mRNA molecules that they produce to make their own proteins. As soon as these proteins are made, our cells use special enzymes to break down the mRNA. The mRNA molecules that our cells make can only survive a few minutes. The mRNA in vaccines is engineered to withstand the cell’s enzymes a little longer, so the cells can make extra viral proteins and trigger a stronger immune response. However, the mRNA can hold for a few days at most before it is destroyed.

Registration websites crashed. Endless waiting times for phone lines has frustrated people looking for appointments or simple information. And some private health centers have been unable to work through bureaucracies to dose the right people. Sometimes they wasted opened vaccines or gave them to people lower on the priority list. In Florida, elderly residents camped on lounge chairs outside the centers, waiting for their shots.

State Health Department officials are glad the guard can pitch tents in 15 minutes and turn to a bevy of skilled workers to quickly scale and change direction if steps like registration stall.

“It was a breeze for us,” said CJ Karamargin, a spokesman for Governor Doug Ducey of Arizona, a state who started the guard immediately after receiving the vaccine supply in December. “This crisis has seen the largest mobilization by the Arizona Guard since World War II.”

The guard was asked to help with personal protective equipment and tests, and “they beat her out of the park,” said Mr Karamargin.

Currently, the federal government will only reimburse states – many of which suffer from heavy tax revenues – 75 percent of their National Guard costs related to coronavirus relief.

At one point, the Trump administration gave full reimbursements to Florida and Texas, and officials from both parties said they intend to urge the Biden administration to find a full resolution on the matter.

“North Carolina knew we wanted a 100 percent refund,” said Sadie Weiner, a spokeswoman for Governor Roy Cooper. On Monday, the state’s first teams of 75 guards in two cities began “to poke, fall and pull,” said Lt. Col. Matt DeVivo, a spokesman for the Guard. They expect their websites to expand significantly over the next few weeks.

Some health professionals were skeptical that the guard could keep up if vaccine quotas increased.

“All hands on deck are important,” said Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association. “But I think you have to be realistic about the guard’s capabilities. We have to be careful not to expect them to bring more medical assets to the table than they can. Guardians work in hospitals and pharmacies that are already detailed to provide services for Covid. “

Security guards say they have the ability to handle the need.

While the Department of Defense often bragged about its role in Operation Warp Speed, the federal vaccination measure, Pentagon officials said troops on active duty would not fire any shots.

In addition, many officials are well aware of the history of the United States conducting unethical medical experiments on black Americans and general distrust of the government. It was something that might require additional reassurances when uniformed guards fire shots, officials said.

“I think this is something we really need to look out for,” said Ms. Hannan of the Association of Immunization Managers. “I don’t know if we understand all of the questions. However, confidence in the vaccine is in a different place than in July and August when there were strong concerns about the military’s supply of the vaccine. “

This week, uniformed Guard troops among state and local health officials gathered around the sports center in Landover, Md., To get to about a dozen white tents to fire shots at residents – mostly rescue workers.

Taylor Brown, an officer with the Office of Emergency Management in Prince George’s County, Md., Watched with consent; The county was one of the hardest hit in the state.

“Thank goodness you’re here,” she said. “The more the better, really.”