Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command (NMRTC) Pearl Harbor is gearing up for Hawaii’s flu season, typically stretching from November to May. The command began administering flu vaccines to the active duty Navy and Marine Corps population beginning early October.
“From the fourth of October all the way up to December we are focusing on the active duty campaign to hit the Commander Navy Region Hawaii’s goal of 90% by the fifteenth of December,” said Hospital Corpsman Second Class Brendan Mercier, a Preventive Medicine Technician at NMRTC Pearl Harbor. “Once we near that goal towards the end of November, we will open up vaccinations to Child Development Center workers and non-active duty beneficiaries.”
Bloch Arena vaccination events will be held October 4-6, 12-13, and 25-27 from 7:30 am till 3:00 pm. Flu vaccines are mandatory for all active duty service members and the mass vaccination event at Bloch Arena will help facilitate larger commands. The event is for walk-ins only but patients are asked to come prepared to receive their vaccine and account for extra time as lines can get long.
“We try to keep the line moving and vaccine operations efficient,” said Mercier. “Of course, we are available to answer any last minute questions but patients should contact their primary care provider with specific questions. Vaccine information sheets and screening forms will be available on site as well.”
Patients can also visit NHCH immunizations clinics located inside Branch Health Clinics (BHC) Makalapa, Kaneohe Bay, and Shipyard Clinic during normal business hours to get their vaccine. More information regarding location and hours of operation can be found by visiting https://nhchawaii.tricare.mil/Health-Services/Preventive-Care/Immunizations.
This year’s flu vaccine campaign comes at the same time as the transition to MHS GENESIS. All Hawaii Military Treatment Facilities (MTFs) transitioned to the new electronic health record on September 25. Patients may experience clinic delays and appointment availability as staff learn new processes for clinic operations, including vaccines.
To prepare for the transition, NMRTC PH trained “super users” to learn the ins and outs of the new system. Mercier is the MHS GENESIS “super user” for mass vaccination events. He spent time learning from Navy Medical Center San Diego when they adopted MHS GENESIS and brought back lessons learned to share with his team as flu season approaches.
“We will be doing a training period during the Go-Live and also during our own staff vaccination event to learn how to use the system (MHS GENESIS),” said Mercier. “As with any other new health system, the program might be a little slow at first but once everyone gets used to it, I suspect it to be a lot faster.”
Along with flu vaccines, NHCH will be administering COVID-19 booster shots to eligible active duty Sailors and Marines at Bloch Arena during the mass vaccination events. Booster shots are not mandatory.
To receive the booster, patients must have received a two-dose Pfizer/Comirnaty vaccine series at least six months ago and will need to bring their CDC card to the event for verification. If the individual’s card has been lost, stolen, or damaged, they can request a replacement at any of the Navy immunizations clinics on island. To receive the booster, patients must also fall into one of the following categories: 65 years and older; resident in a long term facility; underlying medical conditions; or living or working in high-risk settings.
COVID-19 and the flu can both spread during flu season and the vaccines are not synonymous. Both vaccines are recommended to protect against COVID-19 and flu infections. If you have questions about either vaccine, you should contact your primary care provider.