210108-A-ZN169-041.jpgSgt. Wayne Parnell, a healthcare specialist at Moncrief Army Health Clinic, fills a syringe with COVID-19 vaccine Jan. 8 at the Solomon Center on Fort Jackson. (Photo by Robert Timmons)

by Robert Timmons and Josie Carlson                                                                                                                                                      Fort Jackson Public Affairs

Fort Jackson Commander Brig. Gen. Milford H. “Beags” Beagle Jr. and Post Command Sgt. Maj. Philson Tavernier received voluntary COVID-19 vaccinations Jan. 11 at the Solomon Center as part of the installation’s fight against the virus.

This was the beginning of the fort’s plan for executing the COVID-19 vaccination of supported Department of Defense personnel and eligible beneficiaries to help maintain military readiness during the pandemic.

“It’s all about teamwork and all about taking care of each other,” Beagle said after getting the vaccine. “The more of us who volunteer to get this vaccine, the better we will be in the long term. The mask is about taking care of others. This vaccine is the same thing. It’s about taking care of each other, taking care of ourselves and for all of us it’s about readiness."

The installation began vaccinating post personnel using tiered phases to help ensure those most in need of the vaccine receive it first. The very first to receive the shot were members of Moncrief Army Health Clinic.

The vaccinations were conducted by MAHC in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance that prioritizes the population into phases. Fort Jackson’s first focus is on providing the vaccine to those in direct medical care and installation functions.

“Early in the vaccination process supplies will be quite limited,” said Col. Tara Hall, MAHC commander, who joined Beagle in a video broadcast last week.

“The Department of Defense has developed a prioritization schema that is in accordance with CDC guidance,” Hall said. “That will inform how we roll out the vaccine and who gets it first.”

In the first phase, Fort Jackson medical and dental personnel, as well as first responders, received the first of two injections of the vaccine.

While other parts of the on-post population were not offered the vaccine during this first phase of COVID-19 vaccinations on Fort Jackson, they will be at a later date.

Phase 2 will be for those “who are the highest risk of severe complications” to the virus, Hall said.

Phase 3 will see supplies of the vaccine increase allowing “us to distribute to the entire force, the healthy children and all of our staff and beneficiaries. Anyone associated with Fort Jackson will be allowed to have the vaccine.”

Joanna Baker, a clinical laboratory scientist with Moncrief, and Dr. Christina Keiger, chief of the Acute Care Clinic, were among the first to receive the vaccine.

When asked about getting the first shot, Baker said, “It was painless … I may have had (the virus) already and be immune, but I thought it was good to get it just to be sure, just like the flu shot.”

Baker disagrees with those who are hesitant to get the shot because they believe it went through too quickly.

“It’s based on science, it’s an mRNA vaccine versus a killed virus or live virus vaccine. It’s perfectly safe and it’s state of the art,” Baker said.

Keiger said she was apprehensive about getting vaccinated.

“I had refused to get the vaccine at first for personal reasons,” she said. After some thought she changed her mind. “I did this because I want my sister to be confident when she goes and gets the vaccine, and I want to set an example.”

Even though the vaccine is entirely voluntary, prioritized personnel are highly encouraged to take the vaccine to protect their health, their Families and their community, and to lower the public health risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is all about us and this is something we have to do together,” Beagle said on the video with Hall. “I want you to be mindful that this is still voluntary and that you do not have to take the vaccine. You are highly encouraged to, but nobody can make you, nobody can force you, and nobody can order you – not even myself. Engage fear in your mind that it’s voluntary …

“The sooner we get after the vaccine, hopefully the sooner we are going to see the light at the end of the tunnel of COVID-19.”