Approximately 300 local national personnel employed at Ramstein received their first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine April 29.
This marked the first time local national members were able to volunteer to receive a COVID-19 vaccine from the installation, and Ramstein is the first base in U.S. Air Forces in Europe to vaccinate its local national workforce.
More than 2,600 local nationals make up the installation workforce and play an integral role in Ramstein’s mission success.
Previously, supply limitations and ongoing negotiations with host nation governments prevented the installation from offering the vaccine to local nationals who work on the installation. Air Force leaders and community members advocated for increased supply to overseas bases, helping to alleviate strain on demand.
“We have seen an increase in our vaccine supply, and we now have the capability to offer it to all eligible beneficiaries,” said Col. (Dr.) Ryan Mihata, 86th Medical Group commander.
Historically, local nationals aren’t categorized as medical beneficiaries, but wing leaders coordinated with officials of the State of Rheinland-Pfalz and the Kaiserslautern County to get necessary approvals for the COVID-19 vaccine. Host nation health care providers from the local area assisted with administering the vaccines, and the installation provided all vaccines and supplies. Ramstein public health representatives worked closely with their host nation counterparts to ensure the correct procedures were in place to support the distribution of vaccines. The base also ensured each employee’s vaccine is tracked in accordance with host nation requirements.
“COVID doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care if you were born in Germany or in the United States,” said Brig. Gen. Josh Olson, 86th Airlift Wing commander. “Vaccinating our local national population alongside our U.S. population will help protect the entire community. We’re excited to start, and we’re very grateful for the assistance and support from our host nation partners who made this all possible. This was a great partnership in action.”
Richard Dörr, 86th Vehicle Readiness Squadron transportation civilian manager, was among one of the first local nationals vaccinated.
“It means a lot to me. I’m glad to get the vaccine on base because it’s not yet my turn in the German system. I’m thankful to have an employer who takes care of all their people,” he said.
According to local civic leaders, the Kaiserslautern City and County Immunization Center will soon reach 50,000 vaccinations, and appreciates the extra efforts made by Ramstein.
“Widespread immunization is the most promising way ahead in responding to the pandemic,” said County Commissioner Ralf Leßmeister. “We greatly appreciate that the Armed Forces offering vaccinations to their [German] civilian employees, thus helping to immunize our population even faster.”
“At the end of the day, we are one community. More vaccinated people means we are collectively stronger as the Kaiserslautern Military Community. We are all in this together as we battle COVID-19,” added Mihata.
The 86th MDG has consistently echoed the advice of public health officials both on and off base by advocating that individuals get the vaccine once they are eligible. Since January, Ramstein has been able to distribute more than 11,000 doses of the vaccine with numbers increasing daily.
According to the data, vaccines seem to be working and offer a major step toward normalcy.
The base plans to offer vaccines to more local national employees over the next few weeks. Those who are interested can work through their unit leadership to schedule an appointment.