By Staff Sgt. Alexandra M. Longfellow | Peterson-Schriever Garrison
THULE AIR BASE, Greenland — Thule Air Base in Greenland received a shipment of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines on Jan. 14, 2021, as part of the first transportation of the vaccine to the remote base operated by the 821st Air Base Group, part of the Peterson-Schriever Garrison.
Being the U.S.’s northernmost base, located only 750 miles from the Arctic Circle, Thule AB does not have normal supply chain access like other installations. This made Thule AB a prime candidate to receive the vaccine.
The 87th Medical Group and the 305th Aerial Port Squadron contributed joint efforts to support Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst’s COVID-19 vaccine shipment to Greenland.
“Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine shipment will align us with the rest of the military,” said Capt. Brienna Herdrich, 821st ABG logistics flight commander.
During transport, the 87th MDG safeguarded the vaccine to ensure Thule AB would receive a viable product.
“The remoteness of Thule AB does not exempt it from the global fight against COVID-19,” said Tech. Sgt. Josué Diaz, 821st Support Squadron medical operations flight chief. “The vaccine will offer an added measure of maintaining mission-readiness in the wake of this pandemic.”
Thule AB healthcare professionals created a localized vaccination plan to adhere to the Department of Defense’s phased approach to administering the vaccine.
“Throughout the pandemic we have been concerned about our Thule members getting COVID-19 and developing severe symptoms,” said Lt. Col. Timothy J. Coker, 21 Medical Group chief of medical staff. “Due to its remote location, severe cases would need to be aeromedical evacuated to receive higher level care and the response time is highly variable based on weather conditions and nearby aircraft. The Moderna vaccine has good evidence that it reduces risk of symptomatic COVID-19 infections as well as prevents severe presentation which will allow us to protect our Thule members and allow them to continue their mission.”
The P-S GAR public health emergency officer, Maj. William Timberlake, stated the coordination between units and installations are powerful.
“This is a true expeditionary effort in its coordination with various entities and showcasing our flexibility and global reach in pushing the vaccine to the top of the world,” Timberlake said.
The vaccine is offered to U.S. military personnel on a voluntary basis under the Emergency Use Authorization.
As each phase of the vaccination plan is complete and more vaccine becomes available, the plan will be expanded. DoD vaccination efforts are data-driven and informed by the CDC.
“Thule Air Base’s critical space and force projection missions must endure,” said Col. David Hanson, Thule AB commander. “Key partners at Peterson AFB and McGuire AFB ensure our medical needs are met and delivering COVID-19 vaccinations to this remote but strategic location is not only difficult but necessary. Thanks to the 21st Medical Group, 87th MDG, 305th Aerial Port Squadron, and the Defense Logistics Agency for their continued support to Thule AB’s Arctic operations.”