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May Commander's Corner

  • Published
  • By Col. Phillip Lane "Shocker” Latham, Jr.
  • 169th Medical Group

It has certainly been a difficult year with many external and internal challenges. The current COVID pandemic certainly comes to the forefront of these discussions. I recently lost a loved one to this virus and the reality of this issue bears further discussion. As vaccine production starts to meet demand and population infection rates decline, we will certainly see a slow return to more casual routines. Herd immunity, mitigation behaviors and vaccinations have combined to produce this result. We are, however, only recently back to the numbers we were seeing at the end of last summer.

At the time I write this in late April, more than 966 million doses of COVID vaccine across 172 countries have been given. In the U.S. alone over 219 million doses have been given with an average of 2.04 million doses a day, resulting in approximately 40 percent of Americans getting at least one dose and 24 percent being fully vaccinated. At this rate it will take over six months to cover 75 percent of Americans with a two dose vaccine. So when can we return to normal? The answer is complicated by many factors but most agree that when 70-80 percent of a population has adequate immunity we will see a relaxation of mitigation restrictions. Currently we only have 40 percent of the base vaccinated and we continue to have infections that impair mission effectiveness and in some circumstances temporarily shut down entire shops. Mitigation behaviors have been helping but vaccination is the route to ultimately beating this pandemic.

Vaccine safety seems to be a large concern for many. Anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction, is rare. It happens less than 2-5 times for every million vaccines. The majority of severe reactions happen within 15 minutes of getting vaccinated and to date all patients have recovered. You can expect some side effects including injection site pain (91 percent), fatigue (68 percent), headache (43 percent), and several other minor issues that usually only last a few days or less. Compare this to the side effects of the widely accepted two dose shingles vaccine. The shingles vaccine lists injection site pain, muscle pain, headache, shivering, fever, upset stomach (at about the same in the same percentage of events as the COVID vaccines). The potential side effects or risk of death from COVID-19 vaccines remains significantly less than the risks of side effects or death from contracting COVID-19.

All three of the currently EUA approved COVID vaccines show great efficacy in preventing infection. They also give significant protection against the need for hospitalization. They also are shown to almost completely prevent risk of death if you do become infected. Getting this vaccine is voluntary currently, but I encourage everyone to take advantage of vaccinations offered here at McEntire. This will protect you, your coworkers, your loved ones, and ultimately your entire family.  

There is ever changing guidance on all issues that relate to this pandemic, especially as they apply to the U.S. military. I expect that the lessons learned from this pandemic will dictate responses, right or wrong, in the future. I do not, however, think that this issue will leave the minds of local and national leaders in the foreseeable future. Viral identification technology advances, for example, will allow the rapid identification and genetic typing of almost any future viral infection. In the future we can expect many more named infections to ‘alert’ the public. The media will certainly ring alarms with every new infection, not related side effects, and more prompting reactions from government and public health officials. You can, however, expect our wing leadership to do what they have done throughout this current pandemic. They will formulate an informed, measured, and appropriate response to appropriately protect our members and the mission. If we follow the expert medical and military guidance we have here at McEntire JNGB, we can expect a safe workplace ultimately protect our families and our nation.

Semper Primus!

P.S.- While I have your attention, do your PHA and MHA. And get your flu shot too.