Mili Note: My wife is one of those inoculated during the Gulf War (USN) against Anthrax in the secret “Vacc A” project. She has suffered heavily since with no help from the VA, who won’t even acknowledge that she received the vaccine despite the VacA stencil on her record. These sailors… they’re the next generation of Gulf War Syndrome sufferers.
It may be part of an exercise, but have no doubt: The needles in this simulated pandemic flu scenario are real. And so are the deltoids of thousands of sailors to be immunized in coming days as part of a test of the Navy’s capacity to “surge” huge quantities of vaccines to its work force.
Every military exercise gets a name, typically by shortening key words and condensing the spaces between them. The first phase of PANFLUEX – short for pandemic flu exercise – begins today, when nurses and corpsmen from Portsmouth Naval Medical Center will fan out to local military medical clinics. Their goal is to vaccinate about 6,000 “mission essential personnel” within 48 hours.
“Primarily, the first part of the exercise is getting health care workers vaccinated,” said Rebecca Perron, a spokeswoman for the medical center. “If it were the real thing, we would get 60,000 doses and have 48 hours to administer them.”
Because this is the first time medical center personnel are attempting such a large-scale, real-world exercise, she said, they’re doing the immunizations in batches over the coming weeks.
Ultimately, some 60,000 active duty personnel working at shore commands will receive flu vaccines as part of PANFLUEX. That’s a little less than half the doses the medical center plans on administering this year. The rest will go to military family members.
Those flu shots will be available later this month, Perron said. Family members will not be immunized as part of the exercise.
In the exercise’s three final phases, medical personnel won’t wait for patients to come to them. Corpsmen and nurses will head to local bases and commands and set up miniature clinics. They will attempt to inoculate 20,000 people in a 24-hour period.
Sailors assigned to local ships will get their flu shots from their ships’ medical departments and are not part of the exercise, Perron said.