Base clinic prepares for outbreak readiness
CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, Japan -- Corpsmen from the Camp Hansen Base Clinic participated in a shot exercise and administered the annual influenza vaccination to Marines Oct. 1-3 at the Hansen Theater.
During the exercise, corpsmen contacted units throughout the base, accounted for each Marine and sailor who participated, and distributed vaccinations. While the influenza vaccine contributes to the overall readiness of military personnel, the event also tested the procedures corpsmen would employ during outbreaks or pandemics.
“Now we have a review on how many Marines there actually are just on Camp Hansen that we would have to take care of,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Kenyetta DeJohn, a corpsman with 3rd Intelligence Battalion, III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, III MEF. “It helps us plan better because now that we have done this, we have a plan of how things would go if an actual pandemic were to take place.”
The influenza virus is a contagious illness that infects the nose, throat and lungs, can cause a minor or a serious illness, and, in some occasions, could cause death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Getting the flu vaccination helps lessen the chance of the Marines getting the virus,” said Cmdr. Kenneth Bonaparte, a medical officer with III MHG, III MEF, from Houston, Texas. “It is a preventive measure to ensure that they do not end up getting the flu later on in the year.”
Corpsmen distributed two different influenza vaccinations, an injectable vaccine and a mist inhaled through the nose.
“The flu mist is given to anyone between the ages of 2-49 years old, anyone who doesn’t have an immune deficiency, and anyone who is not currently sick with a cold or fever,” said DeJohn, from Columbia, Georgia. “The injectable vaccine is for anyone over the age of 49 and for anyone who has any nasal problems or infections.”
The base clinic plans to have other shot exercises for family members of Marines, dependents and government workers on Okinawa in the near future according to Navy Capt. George Semple, the III MEF surgeon with III MEF Command Element.
“Each camp will have their own point of distribution for vaccines, like theaters or gymnasiums, so that there aren’t an overwhelming amount of people showing up at the clinics,” said Douglas Phelps, the immunization healthcare specialist for Military Vaccine Healthcare Networks. “If there was a pandemic, then people would be clamoring and would want to know where they could go to get vaccinated.”
Next year, the clinic plans to have a standard operating procedure for when they have another vaccination exercise, according to Semple, from Erie, Pennsylvania.
“With the event of a flu outbreak or a pandemic, we will now be ready to react to the situation,” said Semple.