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By Staff Sgt. Charles Johnston
Thirteen vaccination sites officially opened for New Hampshire first responders and high-risk ambulatory care providers Dec. 29.
Teams of New Hampshire Guardsmen were assigned to each site to manage traffic, logistics and administer vaccines.
“We’ve been able to rotate people through very regularly, very easily,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Boisvert, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Exeter site. “From the time you drive in, to the time you get your vaccination, to actually leaving, you’re probably only here for about 20 minutes.”
Guardsmen funneled cars through security control points, confirmed appointments and checked IDs. Patients were then directed to a main lot, parked, and received vaccines while in their vehicles. After a 15-minute observation period, the process was complete.
Despite a successful first day, the process is expected to improve.
“We’re just going to get better as time goes on,” said Capt. James Miller, officer in charge at the Exeter location. “Today is day one.”
Miller was activated earlier this month to command a team of 11 soldiers and airmen for the first phase of vaccinations – one of more than 100 Guard members assigned to the state vaccination mission.
“We’re certainly doing something for the betterment of society,” Miller said. “We’re trying to take care of the community and make sure we can go back to normal as soon as possible.”
One of his most experienced soldiers is Spc. Madalyn Stella, a combat medic who has been activated since April at COVID-19 testing sites. Her latest assignment entails a unique dynamic.
“Vaccinating people in their cars like we’re at McDonald’s and just handing them fries is pretty insane,” Stella said, “But it’s actually going really well. Being a field medic, I’m used to outside stuff. But administering drugs, like a vaccine outside, is pretty uncommon – even for the Army.”
Stella is prepared to remain on active duty orders until the mission is completed.
“We’re soldiers and we just carry on and carry on,” Stella said. “And then when you take a second, you’re like, ‘Wow, I’m part of this bigger picture, and it’s pretty incredible.’ We’ll get through this one day at a time.”