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Guard supports vaccinating Washingtonians

Guard supports vaccinating Washingtonians

Tech. Sgt. Shane Bedard, 141st Medical Group, Medic, administers the COVID shot to a patient at the Spokane Arena Jan. 27, 2021. (Photo by U.S. Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Michael Lee Brown)

Story by Capt. Francine St Laurent
141st Air Refueling Wing

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. — Guardsmen from the 141st Air Refueling Wing joined civilian health care providers at five Department of Health vaccination clinics across five Washington counties beginning Jan. 25 as part of the state’s COVID-19 response efforts.

Across all five counties — Benton, Clark, Chelan, Pierce, and Spokane — 19 medics and providers from the 141st Medical Group have helped administer nearly 7,000 vaccines to members of these communities and will continue to support the DOH clinics in the coming months.

“It’s why [Guardsmen] joined. Everyone wants to help fulfill the mission of helping neighbor and nation,” said Maj. Jeffrey McElroy, 141st Medical Group Detachment 1 medical plans officer. “They want to help the communities they live in.”

McElroy currently supports the Washington National Guard’s Joint Operations Center and coordinates teams that are supporting the response efforts in the state.

The Spokane County Health Department’s mass vaccination clinic, located at the Spokane Arena, opened Jan. 27 and inoculated 1,140 residents with the Moderna vaccine on its first day, McElroy said.

Guardsmen from the Washington National Guard, administer COVID shots to patients at the Spokane Arena Jan. 27, 2021. (Photo by U.S. Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Michael Lee Brown)

Guardsmen streamlined the process, which decreased the number of providers needed at the site, said U.S. Army National Guard Lt. Col. Heidi Leonard, Officer in Charge of the Washington National Guard response at the Spokane Arena mass vaccination clinic. Now, only one person is needed to prepare and administer a shot.

“We completely redesigned the process flow the night before to increase throughput and accommodate people with disabilities and in wheelchairs,” Leonard said. “The integration of the Army and Air Components has been great for both sides. In homeland response that's just what we do!”

In Pierce County, 141st Medical Group Airmen are supporting a Washington National Guard mobile team that is visiting independent living centers to vaccinate residents where they live, McElroy said.

Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are being administered across the state. The availability depends on what the Department of Health has sent to the receiving county.

Vaccines are currently being administered to residents who are in Phase 1A or Phase 1B. To learn more about whether you qualify for the COVID-19 vaccine, please visit the Department of Health’s website at Vaccinations appointments can be scheduled through your respective county health department website.