RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia National Guard started administering COVID-19 vaccinations Thursday, as part of the national rollout established by the Department of Defense and National Guard Bureau.
According to a news release, Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, believes that each individual service member should have a say in deciding whether they will receive the COVID-19 vaccination.
“We encourage Virginia National Guard personnel to discuss their options with their loved ones and health care professionals,” Williams said.
Williams discussed the significance in supporting decisions with facts from trusted official sources, rather than basing decisions on misinformation that could potentially put lives at risk.
Personnel must provide their preferences to their chain of command, and, if they elect to receive the vaccine, will be notified of time and location.
Col. Robert C. Mancini, the VNG state surgeon, believes this is an important, anticipated and much-welcomed chapter in the collective fight against COVID-19. He feels it is a huge positive the Virginia National Guard has been offered these vaccines early in the overall national rollout of vaccines, according to the release.
“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 out-weigh any potential risks, and I plan to receive it as soon as it is my turn,” Mancini said.
The vaccine will be given 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, personnel preparing to mobilize and all other essential personnel will take priority. In the third phase, all other healthy service members and civilian employees will take priority.
Mancini said it is understandable for service members to have questions about the vaccine and offered these key points:
- The VNG has been designated to receive the Moderna vaccine.
- There is no live virus, weakened virus or dead virus in either vaccine, so it is not possible to “catch” or transmit COVID-19 by getting vaccinated, and there is no risk to any family members.
- 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.
- Since no pregnant or breastfeeding people were included in the studies, an abundance of caution on DoD’s part leads to the recommendation that pregnant or breastfeeding people not be vaccinated.
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.
Mancini said that as with many other vaccines, reactions such as aches at the injection site and fatigue can occur.
Even if you have already tested positive for COVID-19, it is still recommended to receive the vaccine to decrease the risk of contracting it again since re-infections can and have happened, he said.
Before receiving the vaccine, a service member should be well and free of any COVID-19 or cold-like symptoms for two weeks. Officials say it's unknown if the COVID-19 vaccine interacts with any other shots, service members’s should wait two weeks after getting their COVID-19 shot before getting any other type of vaccine.
For more information, you can refer to the Virginia National Guard COVID-19 Vaccination Resource Page.