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Immunizations clinic protects Team Whiteman from the flu during pandemic

Needles sit in a drawer in the immunizations clinic at the 509th Medical Group.

Needles sit in a drawer at the 509th Medical Group, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, Nov. 9, 2020. The flu vaccine along with many others utilize a number of safety precautions to prevent infections from any outside contaminants during the vaccination process. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Parker J. McCauley)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Bradley Debrick, 509th Medical Operations Squadron immunizations technician, works on his computer in the immunizations clinic.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Bradley Debrick, 509th Medical Operations Squadron immunizations technician, works on his computer and updates medical records at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, Nov. 9, 2020. After each member gets their vaccination, immunizations personnel update their medical records, which units can use to ensure their Airmen have their vaccinations and other medical requirements are met. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Parker J. McCauley)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Bradley Debrick, 509th Medical Operations Squadron immunizations technician, fills a syringe with medicine from a glass bottle.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Bradley Debrick, 509th Medical Operations Squadron immunizations technician, fills a syringe at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, Nov. 9, 2020. The flu vaccine is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for everyone 6 months and older to protect themselves and those who are immunocompromised by limiting the spread of the virus. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Parker J. McCauley)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the 509th Medical Group immunizations clinic remains dedicated to protecting Team Whiteman this flu season.

In preparation for the large numbers of Airmen and their families who need to get their flu shots, the immunizations clinic is following the rest of the 509th MDG with its safety precautions including mask usage and social distancing.

“During the pandemic the immunizations clinic will be operating as it has before, walk in hours 7:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.” said Staff Sgt. Bradley Debrick, 509th Medical Operations Squadron immunizations technician. “As for precautions, masks are mandatory for entry into the clinic and individuals are screened upon entry.”

The nature of immunizations requires strict hygiene to avoid any possible infections and all of the pre-COVID policies will be continued.

“We as the immunizations staff are maintaining our previous standards for hand hygiene such as hand sanitizing between each patient and washing hands after five uses of hand sanitizer or when hands are visibly dirty,” said Debrick.

The flu vaccine is a medical requirement for all service members who can get it each year and is encouraged by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for all Americans 6 months and older.

According to the CDC’s website, the flu vaccine prevents millions of illnesses and flu-related doctor’s visits each year. For example, during 2018-2019 the flu vaccination prevented an estimated 4.4 million influenza illnesses, 2.3 million influenza-associated medical visits, 58,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations, and 3,500 influenza-associated deaths.

For military personnel the vaccine is especially important due to mission requirements across the globe.

“With flu recurring every year it presents a significant risk to our force, i.e. members getting sick and needing to take time off, spreading it to others, or even creating a back forth scenario of individuals getting re-exposed,” said Debrick.

Much of the immunizations process will be the same as it was last year for this important piece of medical readiness. The immunizations clinic performs vaccinations on a walk in basis where Airmen and their families check in at the counter before being brought into the clinic to get their shots. For some vaccines, immunizations personnel will visit units to vaccinate as many of their Airmen as possible in a single day.

“The flu shot plays an important role in medical readiness by creating a healthy and safe environment for those that are more susceptible to illness,” said Debrick. “That is why we aim for 90% of our total force getting vaccinated as it creates a safeguard so to speak for those unable to get vaccinated or those that are immunocompromised.”

Keeping Airmen healthy is a major priority as it allows them to continue to work normally and be able to deploy to support operations at home and abroad.

“Vaccines, like masks are not just for your protection but those around you: friends, family, coworkers, especially our kids whose immune systems are new,” said Debrick. “Vaccines are an integral part of our mission, without them we are subject to more illness and degradation of our overall mission”

For more information about the flu shot and its availability please call the Immunizations Clinic at (660)687-4304.