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National Guard begins vaccinations

Members of the Virginia National Guard began receiving the COVID-19 vaccine Dec. 31 as part of the national rollout established by the Department of Defense and National Guard Bureau.

Distribution of the vaccine will be in accordance with guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control, Department of Defense and National Guard Bureau.

“Each individual service member will decide whether they will receive the COVID-19 vaccination,” Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the adjutant general of Virginia, said. “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 the discussions are based on facts from trusted official sources and not misinformation that could potentially put lives at risk. Personnel will be asked to provide their preferences to their chain of command, and, if they elect to receive the vaccine, will be notified when and where to get vaccinated.

“This is an important, anticipated and much-welcomed chapter in our collective fight against COVID-19, and it is a huge positive the Virginia National Guard has been offered these vaccines early in the overall national rollout of vaccines,” Col. Robert C. Mancini, the VNG state surgeon, said. “These vaccines provide 90-plus percent protection against COVID-19 infections, and this is much higher than any other tool available to us. I am confident the benefits of the vaccines far outweigh any potential risks, and I plan to receive it as soon as it is my turn.”

The vaccine will be administered in three phases. During the first phase, priority will go to personnel conducting COVID-19 testing, emergency services and public safety personnel such a medical, police, security and firefighters, essential personnel conducting maintenance operations and senior leaders. In the second phase, priority will go personnel preparing to mobilize and all other essential personnel. In the third phase, priority will go to all other healthy service members and civilian employees.

Approximately 120 Virginia National Guard soldiers and airmen are currently providing support, including COVID-19 testing, sample collection and personal protective equipment fit testing and training. COVID-19 response missions initially began in April, and since that time, personnel have collected more than 146,000 sample collections at sites across the commonwealth. They’ve also fitted more than 4,000 personnel from various organizations for N95 respirator masks, and trained hundreds more to conduct fit testings for their own organizations.

Missions from April through July included providing support to food banks across the state, helping distribute nearly 1.35 million pounds of food. National Guard personnel also provided more than 51,000 hours in planning augmentation to Virginia Department of Emergency Management.