JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. –
Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, hosted a virtual town hall January 28 to address questions and concerns regarding the arrival and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The topics discussed at the COVID-19 vaccine town hall included: COVID-19 vaccine eligibility and priorities; vaccine administration on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst; the Pfizer vaccine we are administering; and the public health implications of vaccination.
Below are opening remarks, followed by the question and answers addressed by subject matter experts from the 87th Medical Group pertaining to the vaccine:
For military installations, COVID-19 vaccine priorities are informed by the Centers for Disease Control recommendations and determined by the Department of Defense. The DoD published a priority chart that groups people eligible for vaccination into four major phases: Phase 1A, Phase 1B, Phase 1C and Phase 2. The original schema only had three phases, so there has been some reshuffling of priorities since the first vaccines were administered on JB MDL on 31 December. Momentarily, I will address each phase and where we are operating currently.
First, we have two major categories of vaccine eligibility. The first major category is TRICARE eligible patients living within 40 miles of the installation. If you are eligible for TRICARE and live near the installation, then you are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination on JB MDL… retirees, dependents, everyone who has TRICARE. Foreign military members stationed locally are also eligible.
The second major eligibility category is the workforce on JB MDL. If you work on JB MDL as a GS civilian you are eligible. If you are a NAF employee, you are eligible. If you work for DECA or AAFES, you are eligible. If you work with children on the base, you are eligible. If you are a contractor on the base who is required to participate in an occupational health program, or you are a contractor eligible for other vaccinations from the medical group like the flu shot, you are also eligible for a COVID vaccination on JB MDL.
Now that we know who is eligible, I will go over the four major phased priority groups. These priorities are subject to change as DoD makes updates. The current DoD priority schema is published on the 87 MDG Facebook page if you would like to follow along.
Phase 1A: Focuses on healthcare workers and first responders serving the JB MDL installation. This includes security forces, fire and medical workers. All have been offered the vaccine. Those who have not been vaccinated yet remain our top priority as they decide to be vaccinated. If you fit this criteria and work on JB MDL, you will be able to access our online reservation system very soon. I will discuss the reservation system more in a minute.
Phase 1B: Phase 1B formerly included JB MDL workforce members identified as mission essential by unit commanders as they interpret the DoD priority schema. Unit commanders have been actively identifying mission essential members to the 87 MDG. Two weeks ago these mission essential members could be vaccinated; however, the latest priority schema moves mission essential workforce members down to Phase 1C.
Currently, Phase 1B includes personnel preparing to deploy within 90 days (including those in alert or standby status to deploy); it includes all people age 75 and over from both the TRICARE beneficiary and JB MDL workforce populations; and it includes the installation’s frontline essential workers described as: employees working on JB MDL with youth services or child care, and frontline workers at the commissary, post office, all food workers, plus frontline AAFES workers including those in the food court and barbershop.
Phase 1A and Phase 1B are the only two priority groups being scheduled at JB MDL for vaccination right now. We have over 10,000 people in these two groups and so far have only received 2,000 first dose vaccines, all of which have been administered. Based on current vaccine projections, we will not make it to Phase 1C before March.
Phase 1C: As shared a few moments ago, Phase 1C includes members identified by their unit commanders as mission essential IAW the DoD priority schema guidance. Phase 1C also includes all vaccine eligibles aged 65 and up from both the JB MDL workforce and TRICARE beneficiary populations. It also includes eligible people age 16-64 who are at increased risk for severe illness. Conditions increasing risk for severe illness are found in the footnote of DoD’s phased population schema. The 87 MDG knows who has which conditions based on medical records and TRICARE claims.
Since we are likely more than a month away from having vaccine for the Phase 1C population, we will not be addressing Phase 1C notification processes for elevated-risk individuals today. Notification tools are evolving very quickly and will likely change by March; however, I do recommend that you ensure your phone number and mailing address are correct in DEERS, in the event we send a robo call or mail letters.
The last priority phase is Phase 2. Phase 2 is for all healthy vaccine eligible aged 16 and up. The majority of healthy uniformed members will be offered vaccination in Phase 2.
Circling back to reservations for the vaccine. We are working with a secured web scheduling service hosted by Appointy. We anticipate launching this web reservation service within the next few days for the Phase 1A and Phase 1B priority groups, as well as anyone who needs their second dose of Pfizer vaccine from the 87 MDG.
For people who believe they are frontline workers belonging to the Phase 1B priority group, you must have been identified to the 87 MDG as a frontline worker or else you will be turned away at the door even if you have a reservation in Appointy. The same is true for people who believe they are mission essential members belonging to Phase 1C. All organizational units on JB MDL know how to identify Phase 1B and Phase 1C members to the 87 MDG. If not, the unit should reach out to the Emergency Operations Center for instructions.
Our COVID vaccination site for JB MDL is the McGuire Fitness Center. The vaccination site will only be stood up when we have doses to administer. The site will administer over 1,000 vaccines per day when the supply chain allows.
For the 87 MDG, COVID vaccinations are not being scheduled by phone. Our Appointy reservation link will be posted on the 87 MDG Facebook page very soon for Phase 1A, Phase 1B, and second dose vaccinations only. Second dose vaccinations are available tomorrow afternoon, next Wednesday and next Friday to anyone who had their first dose 21 days ago or longer, even without an Appointy reservation; however, an Appointy reservation is recommended so a dose is thawed and ready for you. The 87 MDG Facebook site will post the most current information on DoD priorities, vaccination FAQs, and information on how to reserve vaccinations.
Lastly please be aware that the State of New Jersey also has a vaccine reservation website found at www.NJ.gov. New Jersey is using a very similar priority schema as the DoD.
Q: Will this be a yearly vaccine and how long do the shots last?
A: We don’t have that data. We don’t know how long the immunity will last for and it’s possible it can become a booster.
Q: When you say Tri-Care members are eligible, does it include Tri-Care for life?
A: Yes it does.
Q: Will you be having a stand-by capability to ensure no waste of vaccines?
A: Yes we do. No vaccines will be wasted.
Q: Can you explain how members sign up on the website?
A: We haven’t release the web link yet, but it will be a link on our Facebook page and we will add one to our Medical Group homepage. It’s a simple click on the link, find the appropriate category and enter information to sign up for your date and time.
Q: For individuals who tested positive for COVID, are they eligible to get the vaccine and how long do you have to wait to get it?
A: Yes you are eligible. Wait until you are out of isolation and are feeling better before getting it.
Q: When are we expecting an FDA approval versus the current emergency authorization?
A: We do not have an answer for that at this time.
Q: Will individuals be notified when they are eligible to receive the vaccine?
A: Notifications will be passive through our website. We will keep everyone up to speed on what phase we are in.
Q: Are we expecting 1C to start in March?
A: It is our hope for 1C to start in March
Q: Is there a plan to identify and administer the vaccine for essential workers who are military dependents?
A: If they work on base, absolutely they will receive the vaccine.
Q: Can you talk about the liability waiver patients are asked to sign before receiving the vaccine?
A: There is no liability waiver. The only form is the medical screening form.
Q: If you get COVID after receiving the shots, will it be less severe?
A: After receiving the second dose, it is supposed to be less severe.
Q: At any point are we expecting the vaccine to be mandatory?
A: There is no indication of the vaccine becoming mandatory.
Q: For those that receive the first vaccine, what happens if there’s a shortage for the second shot?
A: We have vaccines we received specifically for the second dose.
Q: If you get COVID in between your two shots, does that impact getting your second dose or induce a revaccination?
A: No it would not impact you receiving your second dose.
Q: If you can still get COVID, what are the benefits of getting the vaccine?
A: Your risk of severe disease is almost completely reduced. Those that get COVID after the vaccine series will be less likely to pass on the virus.
Q: Are there differences between the first and second doses or are they the same?
A: They are the same. The first dose is meant to prime the body. The second dose triggers an immune response.
Q: If you get travel orders or TDY frequently, will you be required to get the vaccine before leaving?
A: There is no requirement to be vaccinated.
Q: Why is the vaccine in two shots rather than one?
A: This is a new technology. First dose is meant to prime the body. Second dose is where the immune response occurs.
Q: Are there any known reactions to the vaccine?
A: Yes. Some individuals will feel fatigue, low grade fever, chills, body aches, swollen lymph nodes and very rarely severe reactions of rash and trouble breathing. Most reactions last 1-2 days.
Q: Can individuals with asthma, allergies or other things that require medication be able to receive the vaccine?
A: Yes and those are the individuals who are considered high risk and we encourage them to get the vaccine.
Q: Is there a plan for isolation or quarantine if you are a close contact to a positive COVID individual after receiving both doses?
A: Yes. The need and requirement for quarantine and isolation remain the same from the CDC.
Q: Can you contract COVID from the vaccine?
A: No. The COVID vaccine doesn’t contain the live virus.
Q: How will having the vaccine impact contact tracing?
A: It will not impact contact tracing.
Q: What is the MRNA technology?
A: It enters our body and it teachers our cells to create and immune response and create antibodies to fight the virus.
Q: Are there any other vaccines that contain the MRNA technology?
A: No. These are the first vaccines that contain MRNA.
Q: Is there a difference from the vaccine on JBMDL and the Johnson and Johnson vaccine?
A: There is a difference. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine is a one dose vaccine. Johnson and Johnson doesn’t have emergency use authorization right now but hopefully they will soon.
Q: Is walk in availability offered or do you have to register beforehand?
A: There is no walk in availability at this time but hopefully in the future.
Q: If I am a vendor on base do I fall under Phase 1B (Front line Essential Workers)?
A: Please contact your contracting representative for DECA, AFFES or the agency you are working for.
Q: Are retirees who have a U.S. Family Health Plan (not Tricare) eligible?
A: Anyone with a military ID who is a retiree is eligible.
Seeking the facts on vaccination to make informed decisions for yourself and your family is extraordinarily important. It is our hope that you will share the information provided today with others in your sphere of influence, to help others close to you reach informed vaccine decisions as well.