By Pfc. Garrison Waites | 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Joint Base Lewis-McChord
LOS ANGELES — On Feb. 16, 2021, the historic California State University, Los Angeles, COVID-19 Community Vaccination Center (CVC) began distributing the COVID-19 vaccine to community members in the greater Los Angeles area. The CVC marks the first time in history that a state-run, federally-supported CVC has been staffed with the support of active-duty Soldiers.
“This one is unique in California because we are utilizing the help of the Department of Defense. We wouldn’t be able to do this mission without them,” said Diana Crofts-Pelayo, communications chief, California Office of Emergency Services.
The nearly 500 service members who work every day from sun up to sun down come from the 299th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division; and California Air National Guard and Army National Guard.
“We are here to put shots in arms and help vaccinate in support of (Federal Emergency Management Agency), our lead federal agency on this state-run site. We are here in a supporting role,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Olson, commander, 299th BEB, 1st SBCT.
Of the service members at the CVC, roughly 222 Fort Carson Soldiers make up the medical staff administering the vaccine day to day. Los Angeles County health care workers and those over age 65 were first in line to receive the vaccine.
“Every shot we give, I just think that’s one less person that’s (going to) end up in the hospital,” said 2nd Lt. Taylor Nehlig, a medical surgical nurse from Brooke Army Medical Center currently working at the CVC.
The CVC provides a robust range of accessibility to the community. Alongside the drive-up and walk-up vaccination lanes there are also several state-staffed mobile vaccination clinics that serve communities where travel may be a major barrier to receiving the vaccine.
Over the past three weeks, Soldiers and Airmen have worked tirelessly to vaccinate over 100,000 community members. The active-duty combat medics and medical providers from the 4th Infantry Division work on the front lines of the vaccination process, vaccinating roughly 6,000 people a day between the drive-up and walk-up locations.
Despite initial estimates that put the CVC’s maximum capacity at 6,000 vaccinations a day, the Soldiers have proven they can handle as many as 7,000 community members daily.
“I’ve talked to some of our local officials and civilian agency heads, and they’ve told me (what) the military brings to this equation is discipline, organizational skills and effectiveness,” said Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III. “They were impressed by the fact that, every day, our troops take a look at things and endeavor to get better. They know good is not good enough. And, so, they’ve started in one place and, over a very short period of time, increased the capacity in ways that we probably couldn’t have envisioned.”
U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, remains committed to providing continued, flexible DOD support to FEMA as part of the whole-of-government response to COVID-19.