The COVID-19 vaccination program at Fort Benning started in early January.
The program is now in high gear, moving from 80 vaccinations per day in the beginning to nearly 10 times that, Fort Benning commander Maj. Gen. Patrick Donahoe tells News 3.
“We were able to get through Phase 1 Alpha and Phase 1 Bravo of our mission,” Donahoe said. “That is all of our medical providers, all of our department of emergency services folks.”
Now Benning is working to vaccinate those who are determined to be essential employees.
“So, we looked at who’s essential at Fort Benning and how do we get them into the vaccine program,” Donahoe said. “Think about drill sergeants. You have probably seen online we have had a couple of our sergeants first class and staff sergeants; drill sergeants talk about getting the vaccine. They’re in the front line.”
Those soldiers and civilians also include those in the unit that processes basic trainees.
“Those folks who are coming in that door every day, seven to 10 percent of them are positive,” Donahoe said. “We offered all of those personnel, civilians, contractors, military personnel opportunity to get the vaccine.”
The vaccines that are being given in Muscogee County are coming mostly from the state of Georgia’s allocation.
That is not the case on post at Fort Benning.
“Our medical system is a different supply system than what is being distributed locally,” Donahoe said. “Our vaccines come from the department of defense’s health agency.”
And there is motivation for Fort Benning to get the process right as quickly as possible.
Though Fort Benning cannot discuss numbers of people vaccinated because of a Department of Defense policy, they can say they have ramped up the shots since Jan. 4.
“That’s one of the reasons it was great we were able to scale up our capacity,” he said. “So, we can demonstrate back to the DOD Health Agency that we have the capability to distribute.”
And just like in the civilian community, not everyone who qualifies is getting the shot. A little over half of those who qualify are getting it.
“Our challenge is to go back, reeducate and inform our personnel about this vaccine,” Donahoe said. “Where it’s come from, how long it’s been in development. How well tested it is.”
The vaccine distribution has gone smoothly with no noticeable health concerns.
“We have had no reportable reaction the vaccines that we have delivered at Fort Benning,” he said.