News: Mississippians inoculate against H1N1 flu virus at Q-West
Story by Capt. Murray Shugars
CONTINGENCY OPERATING LOCATION Q-WEST, Iraq — Mississippi Army National Guard members began receiving vaccinations for the H1N1 flu virus Nov. 28 at the base defense operations center at Contingency Operating Location Q-West, Iraq.
Soldiers with 2nd Battalion, 198th Combined Arms out of Senatobia, Miss., received the vaccine, in an effort overseen by the 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) out of Fort Hood, Texas.
"We want to get a head start on the holiday travel season by inoculating Soldiers who will be going home on leave," said Capt. John B. Balman, a surgeon with the 15th Sust. Bde. "We received all the doses we need and our goal is to have 100 percent of Soldiers inoculated by Dec. 31."
To facilitate the effort, the 15th's medical team conducted inoculations at the tactical operation centers of its four subordinate battalions, said Balman.
"Going to the TOC's to administer the vaccinations is easier for the units," said Balman, a Temple, Texas, native. "It's convenient and the battalion medics support us. We can still utilize the troop medical clinic for anyone who misses that effort."
With the support of battalion medics, Balman said his team can give 150 to 200 vaccinations per hour. He said the brigade should be at 90 percent by mid-December.
"Getting the vaccination will minimize the spread of the virus and decrease lost work hours that might otherwise occur," he said. "The medical community is concerned about possible mutations that could spread worldwide and the immediate concern for the military is to protect Soldiers and their families."
Sgt. 1st Class Jimmy R. Tullos, medical platoon sergeant with the 2/198th CAB and a Florence, Miss., native, praised the 15th's initiative.
"It was great that the 15th reached out like that," said Tullos. "By coming to the battalion TOC, they made the process much more convenient and this is a crucial vaccination. Without it, the virus could threaten our ability to continue our mission."
Balman praised the support of the 2/198th CAB medics who assisted the brigade medical team.
"The 2/198th CAB medics were very helpful in facilitating the process," he said. "They helped us increase the number of vaccinations."
Tullos said the Mississippi medics also benefitted from participating.
"They are combat medics and don't often get a chance to practice their clinical skills and help with medical documentation," he said. "These are important skills and it was great that they got a chance to practice them."
Sgt. Julia R. Goins, a senior medic with A Company, 2/198th CAB and a Jackson, Miss., native, emphasized the importance of the vaccination.
"It's important to provide the vaccination against H1N1 to protect the force, to keep the Soldiers mission ready," said Goins. "With all the Soldiers going home on leave, there is a high chance of them contracting the virus. The vaccination builds up the individuals' immunities."
Capt. Tulio D. Chirinos, 2/198th CAB adjutant and a Jacksonville, Fla., native, said he was confident the battalion would have 100 percent of Soldiers inoculated by the deadline.
"On the first day we inoculated about 50 percent of the battalion," said Chirinos. "Right now, we're standing at 70 percent. About 11 percent of our Soldiers are home on rest and relaxation or emergency leave, but they will get the shots when they return."