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NEWS | Nov. 9, 2020

Leaders prepare Soldiers to combat the flu on Camp Arifjan

By Sgt. Khylee Woodford Area Support Group - Kuwait

Roughly 400 influenza vaccinations have been administered to service members Oct. 31, 2020, on Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.

With nearly 3,000 service members expected to receive the vaccination, leaders from Area Support Group - Kuwait and the 1st Theater Sustainment Command ensure shots are being administered in a COVID-19 compliant environment, equipping service members to combat the flu.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Harold Yu, command surgeon at Area Support Group - Kuwait and officer in charge during the flu shot administration, describes the challenges presented in this initiative.

"Today was the first day of the flu vaccinations we are holding for our tenant units," said Yu. "This is going to be the first COVID and flu season we are going to be dealing with. It's kind of an interesting challenge to vaccinate all of these soldiers just because of the COVID mitigation measures."

U.S. Army combat medics from the 40th Brigade Engineer Battalion also assisted Yu in providing the vaccines, reinforcing COVID-19 mitigation measures throughout the readiness campaign.

"We just want to make sure no one is getting COVID while getting the vaccine, says Yu. "We also worry about fomite transfer of possible COVID on the skin. We want to make sure they are not transferring any virus on the chairs."

Soldiers arrive for their flu vaccination shots, using hand sanitizer, standing 6 feet apart, and wearing a mask before entering the building; while waiting for their vaccination, and leaving the building, were enforced to keep the flu vaccinations a COVID-less campaign.

This readiness effort is being led with a preemptive force health protection strategy to strengthen readiness throughout Camp Arifjan.

"We haven't had a positive flu [case] here in Kuwait yet, so we need to vaccinate soldiers for that," says Yu. "Whether you have COVID or the flu you are going to be combat ineffective."

U.S. Army Reserve Col. Simon Hamid, an individual mobilization augmentee and Command Surgeon from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center attached to the 1st Theater Sustainment Command, assisted medical personnel from ASG-KU with the event coordination and in administering the vaccine.

"We have a whole schedule for a couple of weeks. We are running through different units each day. We are making sure the flow of people is smooth; there is a linear flow of people, answering questions making sure there are no issues with vaccine administration."

Hamid, who also administered the flu shot at the event, emphasizes the importance of base-wide participation in the flu vaccination campaign, while COVID -19, remains a continued threat to the mission.

"Influenza in the previous years has been a pretty big blow for people who were not immunized," says Hamid. “It can cause respiratory problems that can take them out of the fight. With COVID, for people at risk, it can be fatal. We are trying to protect our service members from that."

The flu shots were administered at the base Morale, Welfare and Recreation movie theater, a location providing optimal space to serve service members while maintaining social distancing.

"Providing service members with the flu vaccine keeps Soldiers in the fight, on task and on mission,” says Hamid. “This is part of theater sustainment, ensuring vaccines are administered in COVID compliance so Soldiers can continue to stay engaged.”

While the flu shot campaign led by ASG-KU is slated to continue throughout the month, Hamid reminds service members to stay vigilant against potentially dangerous viruses like the flu.

“When we get in a combat zone, and we are in a threat of engaging with the enemy, we always ensure we have our body armor, our masks, and the vaccine are part of that.”