The Defense Logistics Agency received 87,980 doses of a flu vaccine April 28 intended to support warfighters in the southern hemisphere to meet Department mandates.
DLA Troop Support’s Medical directorate’s $1.25 million contract is in support of the March 2020 Defense Health Agency memo that requires service members stationed or performing duty in the southern hemisphere to receive an additional flu vaccine that targets strains affecting that region.
“Our partners in the DHA are increasing warfighters’ readiness to fight infections based on their regional assignments, and we are more than proud to support that effort,” Army Col. Matthew Voyles, Director of Medical, said.
According to the DHA memo, the southern hemisphere experiences flu season from April through September with predominant viral strains changing between hemispheres during a single year. In December 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration licensed a influenza vaccine specific to the southern hemisphere, and in 2020 it became available for use within the DoD.
The goal, according to the DHA memo, is to reduce the “potential [adverse] impact [on] force readiness and mission execution.”
“Already supporting warfighters in the northern hemisphere with the flu program made it really easy to say ‘Yes, let’s do this for the southern hemisphere too,’” Jenna Wesolowski, Medical contracting officer for the flu program, said.
Wesolowski has been supporting the flu vaccine program in some way throughout her career in Medical, and said the teamwork leveraged within Medical and with partners at DLA Distribution and DHA is part of the success experienced in the program’s second year.
“It runs just like our long-standing flu program, so the processes for requirements gathered from DHA, our acquisition process and Distribution’s role were well defined. It’s pretty much the same, just a smaller amount since there are fewer warfighters that need it,” Wesolowski said.
In its second year, the program has already grown in how many doses are required, increasing from 29,000 in 2020 to more than 87,000 in 2021. It’s a fraction of the traditional flu program’s 3.3 million last year, but still a big deal for newly assigned tailored vendor logistics specialist Stephanie Nguyen.
“It’s a little nerve racking but also very exciting,” Nguyen said. “[The program] has only been around for two years, but it’s already very organized.”
There are weekly meetings to coordinate with stakeholders in the process to make sure her job of reviewing orders and authorizing release of the items correctly and on time is done right, she said.
The positive impact on warfighter readiness over half the globe is not lost on Nguyen.
“I feel like this is very impactful. People are affected by what you do.”
The southern hemisphere flu program is ongoing with vaccines being released for locations in need throughout the region’s flu season.