Operation Warp Speed clinic draws 200 vaccine recipients, 88% of them students

Norwich University students contracting into the armed forces showed service-before-self spirit Tuesday, rolling up their sleeves and taking COVID-19 vaccines in a clinic organized by the Vermont National Guard.

About 200 people received Moderna COVID-19 vaccines supplied by the Defense Department on Tuesday as part of Operation Warp Speed. U.S. Army Maj. Joseph Phelan, who serves on the Vermont National Guard’s COVID-19 task force, said 88 percent of the vaccine recipients were Norwich students.

Daniel DeRosa, a senior criminal justice major on a U.S. Air Force commissioning track, said his vaccine at the Norwich campus’s Vermont National Guard Armory was trouble-free.

“It was a really smooth and easy process,” he said. “It took under a half hour including observation time and was a very easy shot.”

“It was a really smooth and easy process. It took under a half hour including observation time and was a very easy shot.”Daniel DeRosa, Norwich senior on a U.S. Air Force commissioning track

Phelan said seeing the armed forces’ younger, healthier personnel get vaccines may persuade their peers to follow suit. Phelan said this signal matters especially because younger people may errantly think COVID-19 won’t affect them.

“When talking to this younger generation, it’s important to discuss why we get vaccines in the first place,” Phelan said. “There’s an open discussion about their concerns. Is it a risk issue? And if it is, making sure they weigh their risks appropriately and make their decisions based off of facts.”

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Vermont National Guard officials said their young personnel expressed service-before-self spirit by getting their COVID-19 vaccines Tuesday at Norwich University’s Vermont National Guard building. (Photo by Mark Collier/Norwich University.)

Although Guard personnel, like other Americans, are concerned about long-term effects of vaccines, which are so far unknown, Phelan said long-term effects of COVID-19 are also unknown. Some lingering effects are proving scary. ABC News reported that COVID-19 “long-haulers” are suffering from brain fog, joint and muscle pain, headaches, numbness and fatigue.

ABC cited peer-reviewed Northwestern University School of Medicine research showing that 85% of 100 COVID-19 patients polled in 21 states reported having four or more neurological symptoms more than six weeks after they were infected with the novel coronavirus. Inside Higher Ed cited data suggesting that some long-haulers are college-age young people.

“It’s important to frame this (vaccination) as service to others,” Phelan said. “It’s an easy talking point when working with cadets at Norwich or any other service member because they’ve already made that commitment. They’ve already come to the conclusion that they’re going to serve their community.”

Vermont National Guard Maj. Scott Detweiler agreed with Phelan about the Norwich students’ and Guard members’ good example.

“It’s our doing our part to make this a safer world again,” Detweiler said.

Spreading vaccinations

Detweiler said the Vermont Guard, which had helped to administer COVID-19 tests for the past several months, was reassigned March 4 to help with vaccinations. Early Guard-supported Task Force Coyote clinics were in Burlington, Barre, White River Junction and Springfield; Phelan said the Vermont Health Department is scheduling more.

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The Defense Department provided the shots for Tuesday’s vaccination clinic at the Vermont National Guard building. (Photo by Mark Collier/Norwich University.)

“We are eager to get out there and continue supporting the fight against this virus in our communities,” U.S. Army Col. Randall Gates, the Vermont National Guard military support director, told the Burlington Free Press on March 4.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, has said he wants to have offered vaccines to all Vermonters who want them by June 30. He’s also said he hopes life will be close to prepandemic normal by Independence Day, with businesses open and people free to travel.

Vermont has so far been vaccinating residents age 65 and older, residents 16 and older with specified high-risk health conditions are eligible, as are education, public safety and health care workers.

In a March 19 statement, the Vermont Health Department said 161,000 Vermonters have already received at least one dose of vaccine, representing about 30% of the 16-and-older population. The department added it will make age cohorts eligible for vaccines starting Monday, starting with 60+.  The 50+ cohort will follow March 29, 40+ April 5, 30+ April 12, and 16+, the age bracket of Norwich’s general student population, April 12. 

Detweiler said 85 Vermont Guard members have helped distribute 10,000 vaccines this month. He said the Vermont Guard’s vaccine-distribution force will swell to slightly more than 100 in early April

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