NEWS | March 15, 2021

Fort Pickett vaccination clinic open to service members, TRICARE beneficiaries, DoD retirees

By Cotton Puryear JFHQ Public Affairs

BLACKSTONE, Va. -- The Virginia National Guard COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic is fully operational at Fort Pickett, and any service member, TRICARE beneficiary or Department of Defense retiree may schedule an appointment to receive their vaccination. Virginia Department of Military Affairs employees and members of the Virginia Defense Force are also eligible to receive a vaccination at the clinic. For more details about eligibility and scheduling, please visit the official VNG COVID-19 Vaccination Resource Page at https://va.ng.mil/COVID-19/Vaccine/.

All VNG Soldiers and Airmen are encouraged  to get the vaccine, but it is optional.

“Each individual service member will decide whether they will receive the COVID-19 vaccination,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. “We encourage Virginia National Guard personnel to discuss their options with their loved ones and health care professionals.”

Williams stressed the vital importance of ensuring those discussions are based on facts from trusted official sources and not misinformation that could potentially put lives at risk.

“Many Virginia National Guard service members have already received COVID vaccines manufactured by Moderna, and more than 32 million COVID vaccines have been administered in the United States, including more than 15,000 pregnant people, all with no significant adverse effect,” said Col. Frank Y. Yang, the Virginia Air National Guard state surgeon.

“There is no known association between COVID vaccinations and infertility,” Yang said. “These vaccines are not incorporated into the human genome and are not passed down to future offspring. The internet talk of infertility risk is not based on known science.”

Yang explained both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have no live virus, weakened or dead virus, so it is not possible to catch or transmit COVID by getting vaccinated. Because there is no virus in these vaccines, there is no risk to any family member, including ill or immune-compromised family members.

“These vaccines provide 94-95% protection against COVID infections, and vaccination is the best weapon against COVID along with masking, social distancing and hand washing,” Yang said. “These constitute the best response available to us for your health and safety, the health and safety of your families and those you come into contact at work and in your home communities.”

Yang said it is understandable for service members to have questions about the vaccine and offered these additional key points:

- These vaccines contain messenger RNA, specifically a short strand of mRNA, that codes for proteins in the surface spikes. The vaccine works by delivering these short strands of mRNA into host human cells, and the cells then make spike proteins. The proteins made by our own cells then elicit an immune response.

- The mRNA strands are fragile and become destroyed by human cells, leaving no permanent trace and are not incorporated into the human genome.

- Both vaccines are a two-shot series, and both shots need to be of the same vaccine. The Moderna vaccine shots are spaced four weeks apart.

Yang said that as with many other vaccines, reactions such as aches at the injection site and fatigue can happen and will vary among different individuals.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there may be some side effects which are normal signs that your body is building protection. These side effects may affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days. Common side effects include pain, redness and swelling on the arm where you received the shot, and tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever and nausea through the rest of your body. Some people have no side effects.

The CDC says to contact your doctor or healthcare provider if the redness or tenderness where you got the shot gets worse after 24 hours or if your side effects are worrying you or do not seem to be going away after a few days

“I felt like it was important with what’s going on with COVID now that they finally have some sort of vaccine and progress on it, it was important to get it,” said Capt. Wilifred Hale, the administrative officer in charge of the task force of VNG Soldiers and Airmen conducting COVID-19 testing across the state. “I just got the second dose and had no issue. With the first dose there was a little bit of tenderness in the arm for a couple days, but other than that, no issue. Getting the vaccine is important and people shouldn't be afraid to get it.”

Bobbie B. Rae, VNG state occupational health nurse, had no significant issues with her second dose and encouraged service members to get the facts to help make their decision about accepting the vaccine.

“For many months the Virginia National Guard and the state occupational health office has played defense in regards to COVID 19, it is amazing to finally be able to play offense with the options to receive the vaccine,” Rae said. “Receiving the vaccine is 100% a voluntary decision, and I urge everyone to seek medical facts and professional consultation when making this decision. It is my professional opinion that the vaccine is safe and is our offensive path to return to a state of normalcy.”

More information available at the VNG COVID-19 Vaccine Resource Page:
https://va.ng.mil/COVID-19/Vaccine/

Questions about COVID vaccinations can be sent via the contact form on the COVID-19 Vaccine Resource Page.

More information:

Possible Side Effects After Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/expect/after.html

Watch the Secretary of Defense video regarding his perspective of COVID vaccines:
https://www.defense.gov/Watch/Video/videoid/784646/

COVID-19 vaccine does not affect fertility, immunization experts say
https://health.mil/News/Articles/2021/02/16/COVID-19-vaccine-does-not-affect-fertility-immunization-experts-say