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COVID-19 vaccines transported to Ulleungdo via military assets

Mission completed using the CH-47D helicopter
Armed Forces Medical Command thoroughly checked vaccination readiness:
recipients should undergo a preliminary medical examination before inoculation,
must be observed at the vaccination site 30 minutes after inoculation, and
emergency treatment must be available in the event of any abnormal reactions

COVID-19 vaccines transported to Ulleungdo via mil

Our military asset was used for the first time to transport the COVID-19 vaccines. On February 28, an official from the vaccine transportation task force of the COVID-19 vaccination response team said that they had been successful in transporting the AstraZeneca vaccines alloted for the Ulleungdo region by mobilizing a military helicopter (CH-47D).

The COVID-19 vaccines shipped from a logistics center in Icheon, Gyeonggi-do were transported to the nearby heliport of the Special Warfare Command, under escort of the military·police. The vaccines were transported to Ulleungdo after a process of loading in a helicopter and tying up. After an about 90-minute flight, the helicopter landed at the heliport of a naval unit in Ulleungdo, and then the vaccines were safely delivered to the Ulleung-gun Health Center and County Hospital under escort of the Ulleungdo Police and the Navy on standby.

This Ulleungdo transportation marks the first time that our military asset has been used to transport vaccines. “Our initial plan was to transport the vaccines by sea. Considering the local weather conditions, delivery distance, delivery time, etc., we decided to transport the vaccines by air by mobilizing a military helicopter,” a spokesperson from the Ministry of National Defense explained. “The COVID-19 vaccination response team will continue to consider the use of air assets if emergency transportation by air is needed due to sudden worsening weather conditions at sea and restriction on using civilian ships,” the spokesperson also added.

Our military also carried out a mock drill for safe vaccinations on February 26, the kick-off day of the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination program to allow the people to return to their ‘daily lives.’ The Armed Forces Capital Hospital (AFCH) subordinated to the Armed Forces Medical Command (AFMC), which is the number one recipient group for the COVID-19 vaccination in the military, carried out the ‘COVID-19 vaccination mock drill’ at the sports hall of the Armed Forces Mandatory Service Support Team in the hospital, in order to prepare for upcoming vaccinations.

The drill was attended by the main personnel of the AFMC, including Brigadier General Choi Byeong-seop, AFMC’s commander, Colonel Lee Soon-young, Preventive Medicine Department’s director, and Colonel Lee Sang-ho, Health Management Department’s director, medical workers from each armed service, and key officials leading the medical policies in the military, including Park Gil-seong, Director General for Health and Welfare of the Ministry of National Defense.

The drill started with the process of checking out the recipient’s list, getting a prevaccination check from the medical staff, and standby after recipients’ arrival at the vaccination site. The recipients got a thorough prevaccination check from the AFCH’s medical staff for the determination of vaccination before getting vaccinated.

“A recent survey found that about 70% of those who developed any advent reactions after receiving COVID-19 vaccines, in some countries where the COVID-19 vaccination program has already started, had experienced side effects after receiving other vaccines,” Colonel (to be promoted) Go Seong-min said, who took charge of prevaccination check. “I am confident that the prevaccination check will be able to play a role in preventing the occurrence of side effects in some degree.”

The occurrence of an emergency situation should also be considered. To prepare for it, the AFCH added a process that recipients should rest at the vaccination site for 15 to 30 minutes after receiving the vaccine for observation.

“Some recipients may develop anaphylaxis (acute severe allergic reaction) accompanying skin rash, drop in blood pressure, shortness of breath, etc. after receiving the vaccine. Even if it occurs here, our medical staff on standby can respond to it. This is why we have an observation zone,” Go explained.

The AFCH also assumed a situation where a patient develops anaphylaxis after receiving the vaccine during the drill. When a vaccine recipient resting in the monitoring zone appealed of pain, the medical staff checked the condition right away, and the vaccine recipient was moved to the AFCH’s emergency ward via an ambulance on standby. Finishing the drill, the participants mentioned the AFCH medical staff’s rapid response not to miss golden hour.

“We will make thorough preparations to successfully complete vaccinations as a military hospital playing a role in treatment of COVID-19 patients,” AFCH’s director Han Ho-seong said, stressing “We will also try our best to assist vaccinations by providing medical personnel so that the people, as well as soldiers, can return to their daily lives as soon as possible.”

The AFMC also strengthened its willingness to keep its guard up until all vaccinations end, devoting to final preparations, including establishing a vaccination plan ahead of vaccinations in the military.

“The AFMC will maintain a complete support readiness to successfully carry out vaccinations in the military by preparing personnel, facilities, equipment, and supplies as planned,” Commander of the AFMC Choi Byeong-seop said, stressing “We will provide soldiers with correct information on vaccination, as well as let them know the importance of vaccination, to prevent them from having fear about or having a misunderstanding of and making a wild speculation on vaccination.”

According to the vaccination status reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on March 1, the cumulative number of COVID-19 vaccine recipients reaches a total of 21,177, as of February 28. 

By Su-Yeol, Maeng < >

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