JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, –
Trainees assigned to the U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence, or MEDCoE, began receiving the COVID-19 vaccine at the Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston vaccine site April 15.
As Brooke Army Medical Center, or BAMC, announced that vaccines are now available to all beneficiaries 16 and older, MEDCoE trainees were offered the vaccine as a Tier II priority.
“With Tier II opening up, and current projections of BAMC’s vaccine allotments, MEDCoE should be able to at least offer the first dose of vaccine to all of our staff, cadre and eligible students within the next few weeks,” said Command Sgt. Major Clark Charpentier, the MEDCoE Senior Enlisted Advisor. “This will greatly facilitate training and ultimately, improve readiness as our Soldiers report to their operational units healthy and ready to go.”
Typically, MEDCoE trains and educates more than 37,000 officers and enlisted soldiers annually in a variety of medical areas of concentration and military occupational specialties from doctors, nurses, dentists, veterinarians to medical laboratory specialists, respiratory specialists, surgical lab technicians and combat medics.
MEDCoE students attend at least one of 21 initial entry training courses, 74 professional military education courses or 162 functional or graduate training courses at some point throughout their Army medicine career. Hospital-based training is also conducted for 33 MEDCoE courses at various military medical treatment facilities.
During the last 54 weeks since MEDCoE has been operating under COVID-19 conditions, the institution has conducted more than 900 classes and graduated more than 22,000 students.
“I want to thank the BAMC team and U.S. Army North for taking on this monumental task,” said Maj. Gen. Dennis LeMaster, MEDCoE commanding general, expressing his thanks that trainees are starting to receive vaccinations.
The general said he feels positive about returning to a sense of normalcy within the command and also thanked the Soldiers and civilians assigned to the command for their patience as the medical professionals progressed through the tiers.
“I want to thank our teammates who are choosing to get vaccinated,” LeMaster added.
Instructors assigned to MEDCoE began receiving the vaccine along with eligible tier 1b personnel at the end of January. Select 68W combat medic and 68C practical nursing specialist trainees tasked to augment BAMC personnel at the JBSA-Fort Sam Houston Vaccine Site also received the shot as front line workers.
Getting students vaccinated is a major milestone to keeping the training pipeline open.
Pvt. Michael Giuffrida, a 68K medical laboratory specialist originally from California, is in advanced individual training at MEDCoE. After receipt of the vaccine, personnel are required to wait 15 minutes before departing the vaccine site to ensure there are no immediate adverse side effects.
While waiting for departure alongside his fellow 68Ks, Giuffrida said he chose to receive the shot, “to protect my battle buddies.” He never considered turning down the vaccine and says he hopes as many people get the shot as possible so things can return to normal.
The San Antonio Military Health System is administering the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine under special authorization by the Food and Drug Administration on a voluntary basis to Department of Defense Soldiers and civilians.
The vaccine, which is administered in two doses 21 days apart, is expected to have a 95 percent efficacy rate following receipt of the second dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
Personnel who do not have at least 21 days remaining on JBSA before departure to follow-on training or units of assignment are not eligible to begin the shot series with MEDCoE. Those personnel will begin the vaccine series upon arrival at their next duty station.
The BAMC COVID-19 vaccination site is located at the Training Support Center on the main post of JBSA-Fort Sam Houston at building 4110, located at 2536 Garden Avenue.
People should note that walk-ins are not permitted. Personnel with MEDCoE are notified about their vaccine appointment through their unit. Beneficiaries can book their appointment anytime on TRICARE Online at https://www.tricareonline.com, or call CAMO during duty hours at 210-916-9900.
For more information on the DOD’s vaccine program, visit https://health.mil/Military-Health-Topics/Combat-Support/Public-Health/Coronavirus/COVID-19-Vaccine-Efforts.
For information on the SAMHS vaccine program, visit https://www.jbsa.mil, or follow BAMC or WHASC on social media.