Medical Minute: Update on COVID vaccine progress, flu shots

We are now into week two of delivering the Moderna COVID vaccine into the arms of Americans in the KMC. The initial shipment was designated for Phase 1a (first responders, frontline medics, etc.); however, we have been able to expand that to start some in Phase 1b. Eligible Ramstein members in Phase 1b will be notified by their leadership.

Not all installations are opening to Phase 1b yet, so this extension only applies to Ramstein. Phase 1b includes categories such as deploying members, Child Development Center staff, DoDEA staff members, and food handlers on Ramstein. There is a great information graphic on Ramstein’s COVID vaccine page located here:

As a reminder, the COVID vaccine is a two-dose series. The second dose should be given 28 days after the first. Vaccine administration has started across the globe. Germany has vaccinated nearly 690,000 German citizens. They have a similar prioritization that started with the elderly, nursing home residents and health care staff.

As I have said previously, as a physician, I believe this vaccine to be safe. I received my vaccine last week and experienced no unexpected side effects. The studies show the vaccine to 94-95% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID infection and 100% effective in preventing severe infection.

Although many people who get infected with COVID may have only mild symptoms, it is the long term effects of infection that I have started to think about recently. The fact that we do not know what these long term effects of COVID are is most concerning to me. What I do know is 1.9 million people have lost their lives to COVID-19, including over 371,000 Americans.   

Last week we also received a decent shipment of influenza vaccine, and we have scheduled mass shot lines for Jan. 19-22, or until we run out. The shot lines will be at Hangar 3 from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and we are conducting the shot lines in collaboration with our Landstuhl Regional Medical Center partners.

Let me stress that this will be “first come, first served” and the shipment received was less than our complete order. I highly recommend you come during the first day or two, as I do not know how quickly we will expend the supply. People should have at least 14 days between getting the COVID vaccine and any other vaccine, so if you are eligible for both influenza and COVID vaccines, I recommend completing the COVID series first. COVID is the bigger health threat right now, and we still have not seen much influenza this season.

On a final note, Germany extended its lockdown restrictions to the end of the month. This included a change where a family can only gather with a single person from a different family. For single individuals, that means a group of two.

For families, that means only one person not in your immediate family can meet with you (not two families). Please be aware of these increased restrictions and continue precautions. This is a global pandemic and we are still in DOD’s Stop Movement. Continue to watch your distance, wear your mask and wash your hands.