These Sailors weren’t stuck about getting stuck.
Unscripted candid comments – testimonials – were requested and Navy Medicine Readiness Training Unit (NMRTU) Everett Sailors replied.
As did other Sailors from across the Pacific Northwest recently for a Puget Sound Military Health System (PSMHS) video project.
The project was a combined effort from Madigan Army Medical Center, Naval Health Clinic Oak Harbor and Navy Medicine Readiness Training Command Bremerton. The premise focused on why service members chose to voluntarily get the COVID-19 vaccine.
The filming is part of Defense Health Agency outreach communication efforts to promote efficacy, effectiveness and education of the COVID-19 vaccine, and allow service members to hear from their peers why they chose to be administered the available vaccine.
For Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Kaleesha Ramos, advanced radiographic technologist from Tampa, Florida assigned to NMRTU Everett, it was an emotionally caring – and compassionate - decision.
“As a breast feeding mother of three and having two brothers with genetic disorders, I did it for my family, to keep them safe from this virus and help set the example to also keep my command safe,” shared Ramos.
Hospitalman Samantha Miller, also from NMRTU Everett, initially balked but volunteered the second time around.
“I got it to be able to travel and visit family,” said the Syracuse, New York native. “I also want to make my workplace safer.”
NMRTU Everett, along with NMRTU Bangor and Navy Medicine Readiness Training Command (NMRTC) Bremerton Detachment Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, are satellite clinics of NMRTC Bremerton, providing patient-centered medical and dental care in the third largest fleet concentration in the U.S.
As of April 6, 2020, NMRTC Bremerton has provided 28,000 Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses to critical national security assets, deploying forces and eligible beneficiaries in the greater Puget Sound area, excluding Whidbey Island.
With more on the way.
COVID 19 vaccinations are also available by appointment only to all beneficiaries, age 18 and older at Naval Base Kitsap – Bangor Olympic Lanes Bowling Alley. Appointment can be made: https:// informaticsstage.health.mil/Bremerton1COVIDApp/, or by calling the Puget Sound Military Appointment Center at 1-800-404-4506, Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., or on Saturday from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
NMRTU Everett – like other military treatment facilities - has been on the giving and receiving end of the vaccination process.
“The new accepts came in waves. There was a wave after the first accepts got it and folks saw they were fine. Additionally, clinic leadership provided staff educational question and answer sessions, which included information about COVID-19, mRNA vaccines, and the Moderna clinical trial data.
Additionally, staff declinations were revisited at each opportunity for vaccination by Preventive Medicine staff to answer any further questions, which resulted in more accepts. Explaining the importance of being vaccinated was addressed regularly from our quarters, during walk-arounds, and even during one-on-one conversations, all with the idea that it’s okay to say no at this time, but here’s more information on why it’s important,” said Rutledge.
Rutledge stressed that there has been no strong-armed tactics used to coerce anyone.
“Declinations were respected for their decision and not made to feel pressured. But communication did not stop and each additional mass vaccination held offered another opportunity to communicate the need,” Rutledge said, also noting that clinic leadership and the NMRTC Bremerton’s Preventive Medicine team routinely gauged interest and shared insight to debunk falsehoods and address circulating rumors.
Rutledge attests it was a challenge explaining the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine to some staff members. As an example, they heard about the expected, common side effects – soreness, redness and swelling on the arm receiving the dose, and on occasion fever, chills, headache and tiredness. Compared to the annual required influenza vaccination, that was different.
“The mounting clinical trial data and real world data over time have aided in sharing the effectiveness of the vaccine and the urgency to support,” said Rutledge.
It has been gratifying for Rutledge to see clinic staff receive the vaccination to help stop the spread of COVID 19.
“A lot of the staff, including those who were reluctant to get the vaccine at first, became happy to have received it to protect not only themselves, but their loved ones and those around them in the community,” exclaimed Rutledge. “Additionally, those staff members who have gotten the vaccine have expressed a willingness with decreased fear to get back out, see extended family and ultimately enjoy some resemblance of normalcy.”
Watching the candid comments from clinic Sailors expressed during the PSMHS video filming for Rutledge and others encapsulated the educational awareness and supportive effort from the first vaccination opportunity in December to present day. They were struck by the honest inflection in each staff member’s remarks, from Ramos’ emotional explanation to Miller’s change of heart. It validated the care invested in each other.
“Being there for them meant not pressuring or scaring the members but respecting their decision either way. Emphasizing the voluntary nature of this process was important alongside the facts and empowering them to make the decision, not have the decision made for them, which often happens in military life,” stressed Rutledge.
Volunteers from other Navy commands such as Carrier Strike Group 3, Submarine Group 9, and Naval Air Station Whidbey Island also shared, as did Air Force and Army personnel at Joint Base Lewis McChord.
According to compiled statistics from the Military Health System, it took 70 days for the Department of Defense to administer a million vaccines, half that time - 35 days - for the next million, and with more than a quarter of a million doses administered in the last eight days as of April 12, 2021, DoD is on track for administering the next million in 25-30 days.
Moreover, 83 percent of the vaccines from 350 DoD sites have been administered, above the national average of 77 percent. It is also estimated that more than 25 percent of the total force are now fully vaccinated. Approximately 2,313,600 total doses have been provided, with 36.8 percent of service members receiving at least one dose.