BATTLE CREEK, Mich. –
From the most remote reaches of the Defense Logistics Agency enterprise to America’s heartland, agency employees are quickly gaining access to COVID-19 vaccines in early 2021.
While vaccine availability for American citizens has typically been determined by risk tier so far – with medical workers, teachers, caretakers and the elderly receiving first doses in most places – U.S. efforts are now to the point where many across the DLA Disposition Services workforce have also been offered a coronavirus vaccine, often through nearby military treatment facilities, and many are taking advantage of the opportunity to help speed society’s return to pre-pandemic life.
California-based Environmental Protection Specialist Eric Viramontes-Merino said he was the first in his family to get a vaccine when he received his initial dose of the Moderna vaccine at a San Diego Veteran’s Affairs clinic Jan. 11.
“On my first shot, I felt sore, with pain in my arm and fatigue. On the second dose, I had no reaction,” Viramontes-Merino said, noting that he felt like the benefits of getting the vaccine outweighed any potential negative reaction he might have. “The vaccine is highly effective and the risk is most likely just mild sickness from your own immune response.”
His Camp Pendleton colleague, Property Disposal Specialist Annakay Charles, received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine Jan. 28 through the local Navy hospital, making her the second person in her family to receive an inoculation. Charles said she was a little hesitant about receiving a vaccine, but ultimately decided it was the right choice.
“Being reluctant on it is okay, because of all that we are seeing in the news today – it is scary. But I thought about my two young children and my husband and I want to be around for them,” Charles said. “The only side effect I experienced after getting the shot was my arms got sore a little. It lasted about three to four days.”
In Pearl Harbor, Pacific Directorate Operations Supervisor Mike Leskovec received his first Pfizer dose Feb. 11 through the on base Navy Regional Medical Clinic. He said his supervisor informed him of availability and he signed up for an appointment through DLA. He had slight soreness at the injection site for about a day.
“Based upon my age, I am probably at higher risk for infection,” Leskovec said. “I also believe that the more the population gets inoculated, the sooner society can return to normal activities.”
Environmental Protection Specialist David Gordon and Property Disposal Specialist Willie Mitchell were among employees at Georgia’s Warner Robins property disposal site who volunteered to receive vaccines in early January. They both were the first in their families to do so, and both cited a desire to protect family members with underlying conditions as motivation for seeking out inoculation.
“I followed the news closely on the rollout of the vaccine,” Mitchell said. “It was very important for me to see stellar figures of common people line up to take the vaccine – healthcare personnel, elderly people, first responders. It was very important for me also because I have underlying conditions and I’ve lost friends and family to COVID-19. I’m glad that I’ve been fortunate enough to get the vaccine.”
Mitchell said he had a sore arm for two days with the first dose, and fatigue, chest tightness and body aches after the second. Gordon said he had slight soreness at the shot site and slight body ache the day after. He cited health conditions of his wife and child for him volunteering.
“I am the only one in the house who goes out,” Gordon said. “For their protection, I took the shot.”
In mid-February, DLA Disposition Services headquarters employees in Battle Creek received word of potential vaccine doses being made available through the local National Guard at Fort Custer. Most who wanted the shot have been able to receive one, and scheduled appointments are still available to those who may have missed the initial opportunity. In March, the North-East Region director said all of the Columbus, Ohio-based employees and nine Fort Meade personnel had received the call from local military treatment facilities to come get inoculations.
Network Management Branch Chief Angie Wilbur was among those Michigan employees who volunteered for the excess Michigan National Guard shots. She said a close family member had an organ transplant and is immunosuppressed due to essential medication. They have not been cleared by doctors to receive the vaccine, but Wilbur said that if she could receive it, that would eliminate one possible coronavirus source and hopefully encourage other family members to receive it as well.
“I wanted to lead by example to show that it’s not a scary thing,” Wilbur said. “It also provides some peace of mind, knowing you’re fully vaccinated, it eliminates an exposure source for my coworkers and anyone else I come into contact with, and hopefully it helps get the world back to normal sooner.”