NEWS | Jan. 5, 2021

Vermont National Guard rolls out first doses of COVID vaccine

By Don Branum Vermont National Guard Public Affairs

Medical personnel with the Vermont Army National Guard Medical Detachment, the 158th Medical Group, and the University of Vermont Medical Center administered COVID-19 vaccinations to 60 Soldiers and Airmen here Jan. 4.

Soldiers and Airmen who are part of upcoming mobilizations and those whose jobs place them at risk of higher COVID-19 exposure were among the first recipients of the vaccine, which arrived at Camp Johnson the last week of December.

“My unit was looking for volunteers, so I said, ‘Why not,’” said Staff Sgt. Kevin Stevens, a water purification specialist with Alpha Company, 186th Brigade Support Battalion. Stevens is currently assigned to support the Strategic National Stockpile warehouse in Colchester.

The Vermont National Guard’s supply of vaccines is provided through the Defense Department. The state of Vermont and Department of Veterans Affairs have separate supply channels.

“None of these vaccines are diverted from the state’s allocation for nursing homes or high-risk health care providers,” said Maj. Gen. Greg Knight, the state’s adjutant general.

National Guard service members who are on Title 32, Section 502(f) orders are eligible to receive the vaccine, said Lt. Col. James McBride, the Vermont National Guard’s chief of operations. Currently, 122 Soldiers and Airmen are on state active duty to support the state’s COVID-19 response.

Those receiving the vaccine were kept for 15 minutes in case they exhibited any reactions to the shot, but the first round was uneventful, with a few noting that they didn’t even feel a sting.

“Even my flu shot hurts worse than this,” said Staff Sgt. Yolande Allen, who normally performs with the 40th Army Band but is currently working in an elevated-risk environment.

Service members should continue to wear masks, wash their hands regularly, practice social distancing, and continue following all state guidelines after receiving the shot.

“Even though you may not get COVID-19, it’s possible that you still might be able to spread it,” Knight said.

Vermont National Guard service members will continue receiving the vaccine as it becomes available through the Department of Defense. Those on orders supporting the COVID-19 response and deploying in 2021 are the first to receive the vaccine.

Additional vaccine rollouts are scheduled to take place Jan. 6 and Jan. 8.

The COVID-19 vaccine is designed to be delivered in two doses, with the second dose received four weeks after the first. It takes approximately six weeks after the second dose for the body to develop effective immunity to the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.