Why the National Guard is showing up at COVID-19 vaccination sites

Posted at 4:01 PM, Mar 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-02 18:58:23-05

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- This National Guard platoon has a new mission. Get the COVID-19 vaccine into arms at the Richmond Raceway.

The 33 men and women assigned to the mass vaccination site at the raceway are part of a larger effort that began this week at sites across Virginia.

"We do anything from traffic flow and circulation to registration, to data entry to logistics supplies. We also do some operational planning at the site," Lt. Col. Juanita Rohler, 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, said."This is locality-led. We just come in and help the local health district with whatever admin and logistical support that they need."

The 250 members are being trained at sites around Virginia for the next two weeks. After that, they'll be sent to assist where needed.

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Jackson Baynard, who runs the raceway vaccine site for Henrico County, said it was another needed partnership to make vaccination efforts successful.

"We know that we have to have a variety of resources that we can pull from different places if we want to be able to continue to do this," Baynard, Henrico Chief of Emergency Management and Workplace Safety, said.

Baynard said the Guard could provide a much-needed break for some of the people who've been at this since mid-January.

Raceway President Dennis Bickmeier said their addition could also help with the eventual expansion of vaccine sites on the property.

"If the supply is made available, we know we can handle that type of operation as well," Bickmeier said. "So we can definitely expand buildings, and we can definitely expand to other parts of the property to even set up a drive thru location."

Supply should become less and less of an issue.

Drugmaker Merck & Co. will help produce rival Johnson & Johnson’s newly approved coronavirus vaccine in an effort to expand supply more quickly.

That's according to the White House, which said President Joe Biden would address the partnership in a speech Tuesday afternoon.

Officials have said J&J faced unexpected production issues with its vaccine and produced only 3.9 million doses ahead of its receiving emergency use authorization on Saturday.

The company is on pace to deliver 100 million doses by the end of June.

The assistance from Merck was expected to help J&J meet its production commitments and expand supply even further.