Malmstrom AFB begins COVID vaccinations

Col. Mark Pomerinke, 341st Medical Group commander, receives the first round of COVID-19 vaccinations given to medical personnel and first responders.
Staff Sgt. Michelle Krous, 341st Healthcare Operations Squadron NCO in charge of acquisitions, opens a box of COVID-19 vaccines
Senior Airmen Lauren Lacaprara, left, and Bayli Moore, 341st Healthcare Operations Squadron medical material technicians, open a shipment of delivered COVID-19 vaccines
Posted at 2:41 PM, Dec 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-31 17:32:12-05

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE — Malmstrom Air Force Base began vaccinating medical personnel for COVID-19 on Thursday at the base medical clinic.

A dozen medical officials were vaccinated, including Colonel Mark Pomerinke, the commander of the 341st Medical Group, according to a news release.

“We’re glad to begin taking this next step forward in our ongoing pandemic effort,” he said. “Our team has done an outstanding job this past year of providing for the needs of our military members, their families and the local retiree population. We had been preparing for the vaccine’s arrival, and now that it’s here we are excited to begin distribution.”

The vaccine will first be made available to medical workers and first responders on base. Healthcare technicians will offer remaining doses, if available, to other mission-essential personnel.

Colonel Anita Feugate Opperman, commander of the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom, said, “The nuclear mission is the cornerstone of our national security, and taking care of those who take care of us is the best way to continue to ensure the readiness of our force right now."

Phase 1 of the distribution plan targets healthcare workers, healthcare support, emergency services, public safety personnel and other essential workers since they have the greatest exposure risk.
The next phase of the vaccine distribution plan includes other critical and essential support personnel and those preparing to deploy overseas. The last phases are high-risk military beneficiaries and then the healthy population.

As of now, the vaccine is voluntary for military personnel, with a focus on those unable to telework or working closely with others. According to Lieutenant General Ronald Place, head of the Defense Health Agency, once the FDA has fully approved the vaccine, the department will consider making it mandatory.

Although experts don’t know the exact percentage of vaccinated people needed to achieve herd immunity since it varies by disease, Place recommends that everyone take the vaccine, just based on risk. The World Health Organization says that herd immunity works because when the majority of the community are vaccinated the disease can’t circulate. In other words, “the more that others are vaccinated, the less likely people who are unable to be protected by vaccines are at risk of even being exposed to the harmful pathogens.”

Malmstrom will continue to follow Department of Defense and Centers for Disease Control guidelines such as wearing masks, hand washing, and social distancing to mitigate community spread.

The City-County Health Department in Great Falls announced on Thursday that there have been twelve COVID-19 deaths in Cascade County since December 23rd. There have now been 107 deaths in Cascade County.

The CCHD said the twelve people were:

  • 1 man in his 60s
  • 4 women in their 70s
  • 2 men in their 70s
  • 1 woman in her 80s
  • 2 men in their 80s
  • 2 men in their 90s

The CCHD said in a news release: "We are deeply sorry for the families and friends of these individuals, and hope that Cascade County residents can join together to lend them compassion and support, particularly as we wrap up the holiday season and head into the New Year."

VACCINE: Governor Steve Bullock on Wednesday announced the state’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan has been updated to incorporate the new federal recommendations for allocation to critical groups in Montana and an estimated timeline. Click here for details.

CONTEXT: Not every person who tests positive actually becomes ill or exhibits symptoms. Many do not; of those who do become sick, some experience mild symptoms and do not require hospitalization. Others experience more severe symptoms, and some do require hospitalization. Every person who tests positive for COVID, however, has the potential to spread the virus to other people, including family members and friends, which is why public health officials continue to encourage everyone to wear a mask and maintain at least the recommended six feet of "social distance" when in public. The CDC released data in late August which emphasizes that people with contributing or chronic medical conditions are at much greater risk of dying from COVID-19. Click here to read more.