CHARLOTTE AMALIE – With the assistance and coordination from the Virgin Islands Department of Health, service members were able to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Community Vaccination Centers, September 11, 2021.
The rise of the Delta variant, and the speed at which it transmits among individuals, have significantly increased the risk to our personnel and the Department of Defense’s mission and has put a strain on our local hospitals.
“As Guardians, we pride ourselves of being a Ready, Relevant, and Responsive force,” said Maj. Gen. Kodjo Knox- Limbacker, the adjutant general of the Virgin Islands National Guard. “It is essential that we, as defenders of our community, take all available steps to protect ourselves and avoid spreading COVID-19 to our loved ones, co-workers, and members of the public. The CDC and VIDOH have found that the best way to do so is to get vaccinated.”
On August 24, 2021, the Secretary of Defense mandated vaccination for all armed forces members to include the National Guard. Mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 will only use COVID-19 vaccines that receive full licensure from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), following FDA-approved labeling and guidance.
As of September 11, 2021, Army Service implementation guidance is still pending. Currently, there is no mandate for administrative action at this time. The VING continues to educate the force about the importance of taking vaccines.
The health and well-being of our National Guard members are of paramount importance.
Although service members were highly encouraged to get vaccinated, medical professionals saw a slow rise in the number of service members getting vaccinated.
“Since the variant entered the Territory in July 2021, its effects added more constraints to our small Virgin Islands community and workforce,” said Col. Jean Moving-Collins, deputy state surgeon for the VING. “Last August, we had ten COVID positives, the highest since the start of the Pandemic in March In total, over the past year, we’ve had 64 positive cases.”
Service members are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after completing the second dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine or two weeks after receiving a single dose of a one-dose vaccine.
Those with previous COVID-19 infections are not considered fully vaccinated.
Although the DoD requires that all service members receive the vaccine, medical and religious exemptions (upon request of the service member) are being considered. They are covered in existing service-specific policies.
The VING is following all medical and federal guidelines and will continue to adjust health protection protocols to the local conditions of the communities in which we serve. Vaccines are available thru the VIDOH COVID-19 Vaccine Centers and other sites available within or outside the territory.