Overwhelmed, more states turn to the National Guard for vaccine help

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LANDOVER, Maryland – As tens of thousands of his National Guard colleagues descended on the nation’s capital to ensure the peaceful transfer of presidential power, 10 miles down the road, Emmanuel Alfaro was doing what he saw as the climax of his career in the Guard. : administering the Covid-19 vaccines to his fellow citizens.

“It’s a highlight, being able to go out and help the public,” said Mr. Alfaro, a senior airman and medic with the 175th Air National Guard, whose normal duties are to help centers. Maryland Health Care Center.

As the pandemic continues to rage across the country and a vaccination program to control it struggles, governors are increasingly looking to the National Guard to help speed up the process. At least 16 states and territories use members of the Guard to give injections, bringing in doctors, nurses, medics and others skilled in injections.

Many other states use thousands of other Guard personnel for logistical tasks, such as putting together and moving vaccine kits, registering patients, and checking lines at state vaccination sites. . In West Virginia, for example, around 100 Guard soldiers are helping with distribution statewide.

“We are a logistics operation here,” said Major Holli Nelson, spokesperson for the guard there. “It’s what the military does best.”

The growing presence of the Guard is a stark reminder that, even as the country recovers from the attack on Capitol Hill last week, a pandemic continues to rock all states, which are struggling to speed up a complex vaccination program without modern precedent. .

Since January of last year, 1 in 14 people living in the United States has been infected with the coronavirus, and at least 1 in 862 has died. States like California and Arizona, which have among the nation’s highest number of infections, are grappling with healthcare worker exhaustion and flooding at their medical centers.

“States are naturally looking for alternative ways out of the limited supply of vaccines,” said Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers. “We are seeing more and more States using the National Guard and thinking bigger.”

In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan originally planned to distribute vaccines largely through private health care providers and drugstore chains, later establishing public health clinics. Last week, realizing that the private sector was unable to speed up operations as quickly as it had hoped, Mr Hogan turned to 140 members of the Maryland National Guard for help with pop sites. -up in two counties and will add six next week to help county and state health officials.

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States have struggled to get the roughly 30 million doses of vaccine distributed by the Trump administration to Americans. The desire for vaccines has far exceeded the supply, even though some Americans who qualified for an early dose have rejected them, leading the federal government and states to adjust their guidelines on who can receive them first.

Vaccines against covid19>

Answers to your questions about vaccines

While the exact order of vaccines may vary by state, most will likely prioritize medical workers and residents of long-term care facilities. If you want to understand how this decision is made, this article will help you.

Life will only return to normal when society as a whole is sufficiently protected against the coronavirus. Once countries authorize a vaccine, they will only be able to immunize a few percent of their citizens at most in the first two months. The unvaccinated majority will always remain vulnerable to infection. A growing number of coronavirus vaccines show strong protection against the disease. But it is also possible for people to spread the virus without even knowing they are infected, as they have only mild symptoms, if any. Scientists do not yet know if vaccines also block transmission of the coronavirus. So for now, even vaccinated people will have to wear masks, avoid crowds inside, etc. Once enough people are vaccinated, it will become very difficult for the coronavirus to find vulnerable people to infect. Depending on how quickly we, as a society, reach this goal, life may start to move closer to something normal by fall 2021.

Yes, but not forever. The two vaccines that will potentially be authorized this month clearly protect people against Covid-19. But the clinical trials that delivered these results were not designed to determine whether vaccinated people could still spread the coronavirus without developing symptoms. It remains a possibility. We know that people naturally infected with the coronavirus can spread it without experiencing a cough or other symptoms. Researchers will study this question intensely as the vaccines roll out. In the meantime, even vaccinated people will have to consider themselves as possible spreaders.

The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine is given by injection into the arm, like other typical vaccines. The injection will not be different from any you received before. Tens of thousands of people have already received the vaccines and none of them have reported serious health problems. But some of them experienced short-lived discomfort, including pain and flu-like symptoms that usually last for a day. People may need to plan a day off or school after the second shot. While these experiences are not pleasant, they are a good sign: they are the result of your own immune system encountering the vaccine and building a powerful response that will provide long-lasting immunity.

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No. Moderna and Pfizer vaccines use a genetic molecule to stimulate the immune system. This molecule, known as mRNA, is ultimately destroyed by the body. The mRNA is packaged in an oily bubble that can fuse with a cell, allowing the molecule to slip inside. The cell uses mRNA to make proteins from the coronavirus, which can stimulate the immune system. At any given time, each of our cells can contain hundreds of thousands of mRNA molecules, which they produce to make their own proteins. Once these proteins are made, our cells then shred the mRNA with special enzymes. The mRNA molecules made by our cells can only survive for a few minutes. The mRNA in vaccines is designed to resist the enzymes in the cell for a bit longer, so that the cells can make additional viral proteins and elicit a stronger immune response. But mRNA can only last a few days at most before being destroyed.

Registration websites have gone down. Endless waits on phone lines have frustrated people looking for appointments or just information. And some private health care centers have been unable to work with bureaucracies to get the doses to the right people, sometimes wasting open vaccines or giving them to people very low on the priority list. In Florida, older residents were camping in lawn chairs outside centers while waiting for their shots.

State health department officials say they are satisfied with the Guard’s ability to pitch tents in 15 minutes and look to a plethora of trained staff to quickly scale up and change direction when steps are taken. such as recording get bogged down.

“It was obvious to us,” said CJ Karamargin, a spokesman for Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona, a state that deployed the Guard immediately after receiving its vaccine supply in December. “This crisis saw the biggest mobilization of the Arizona Guard since World War II.”

The ranger was called in to help with personal protective equipment and testing, and “they hit him out of the park,” Mr. Karamargin said.

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The federal government will currently reimburse states – many of which suffer from sharp declines in tax revenue – for just 75% of the National Guard’s costs associated with fighting coronaviruses.

At one point, the Trump administration reimbursed Florida and Texas 100%, and governments on both sides said they intended to pressure the Biden administration to heal.

“North Carolina has made it clear that we would like to get a 100% refund,” said Sadie Weiner, spokesperson for Governor Roy Cooper. On Monday, the first teams of 75 State Guard members in two cities began to “stick, dive and shoot,” said Lt. Col. Matt DeVivo, a spokesman for the Guard. They plan to significantly increase their sites over the next few weeks.

Some healthcare experts were skeptical that the Guard could keep pace when vaccine allocations became larger.

“All hands on the bridge are important,” said Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “But I think you have to be realistic, though, about the Guard’s capacity. We need to be careful that we don’t expect them to bring in more medical assets than they can. Members of the guard work in hospitals and pharmacies already responsible for providing services to Covid. “

Caregivers say they have the ability to manage needs.

While the Department of Defense frequently bragged about its role in Operation Warp Speed, the federal vaccination effort, Pentagon officials have said active-duty troops will not administer fire.

In addition, many officials are aware of the history of the United States conducting unethical medical experiments on black Americans and the general distrust of the government. Having uniformed Guard troops firing was something that might require additional assurances, officials said.

“I think that’s something we really need to pay attention to,” said Ms. Hannan of the Association of Immunization Managers. “I don’t know if we understand all the questions around this. But confidence in the vaccine is different from what it was in July and August, when the military was very concerned about vaccine delivery. “

This week, uniformed Guard soldiers moved among state and local health officials around the sports center in Landover, Md., To get to a dozen white tents to give to residents – largely emergency medical workers – their vaccines.

Taylor Brown, an official with the Prince George County, Md., Emergency Management Office, watched approvingly; the county has been one of the hardest hit in the state.

“Thank goodness they’re here,” she said. “The more the merrier, really.”

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