CHANNEL ISLANDS AIR NATIONAL GUARD STATION, Port Hueneme, Calif. -- Matching the Department of Defense and the State of California's intent to distribute COVID-19 vaccinations to as many people as possible, California National Guard medical facilities across the state are extending vaccination scheduling eligibility to include military dependents.
Effective immediately, all dependents over the age of 18 and registered within the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) are now eligible to schedule vaccination appointments at various military medical facilities across the State of California. The 146th Medical Group (146 MDG) is now providing dependents initial vaccinations of the two-dose Moderna Vaccine at Channel Islands Air National Guard Station.
146 MDG flight doctor and full-time medical provider Lt. Col. Nicole Christiano predicts the number of appointments made through the wing's website will increase significantly in the coming days, citing a large amount of initial scheduling within two days of the announcement.
"We got the word out last Sunday, and by Monday, we already had over 45 individuals requesting scheduling,” said Christiano. “That number has only doubled every single day since the announcement, and we plan on ramping up our operations to ensure we continue to meet the state's expectations."
Christiano says for smaller military medical facilities like the 146 MDG, this scale of vaccination operations is unprecedented. Within days, the group has overcome multiple logistical hurdles during its preparation for military dependents. One of those hurdles was finding available technicians to administer the vaccines.
"Most of our medical technicians are out supporting other COVID-19 missions across the state and have been for several months. We have more than 50 percent of our Airmen currently out on mission right now. Doing more with less has always been a hallmark we pride ourselves on, which in this case was no exception. Luckily, I have two fantastic team leads, Senior Master Sgt. Jason Stroh, and Tech. Sgt. Abraham Virata, who helped innovate new ways to improve logistics and really streamline our processes."
Another unforeseen limiting factor for her and her team was getting in touch with military dependents.
"It's easy for us to get in touch with our service members to come in to receive vaccines; it's something that we do regularly as a part of our mission. However, it's a bit of a challenge notifying their dependents since we don't have contact information for them like we do our members. That took a little bit of finessing, but we've all pulled together and got the support staff we needed in true Guard fashion," said Christiano.
Dependents looking to schedule appointments or for more information regarding reporting instructions, please visit the wing's official website at www.146aw.ang.af.mil.