BREMERTON, Wash. - On a recent Saturday, Navy Lt. Andrea Mauter had to forego hiking with husband, Steven, and their puppy, Arleigh.
The Navy Nurse Corps officer was on duty as on-site leader overseeing several hundred 75-year and older beneficiaries being administered their initial dose of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command (NMRTC) Bremerton.
“We provide coordination and observation of the workflow to ensure safe and efficient vaccination. We are there to respond to any medical emergencies that may arise during these evolutions and serve as a subject matter expert for times in which participants may have questions or concerns in regards to vaccination,” explained Mauter.
There were queries raised and worries shared.
Mauter knew exactly how to respond, making a concentrated effort to share insightful information when called upon. Her calm demeanor and empathetic support was so appreciated by a retired Navy master chief petty officer that wrote NMRTC Bremerton’s commanding officer a thank-you note for her assistance, as well as that of the Preventive Medicine team and support team providing the shots.
The letter read in part, ‘my wife and I received the first of two COVID Vaccines. From the time we arrived in the parking lot until we left with our vaccinations we were treated with the greatest possible respect and civility. The welcoming staff were extremely helpful. They explained exactly what was about to take place, where to go, where to wait and what to do.’
‘They escorted us through the entire operation. I saw one staff member in the parking lot helping a lady with a wheelchair, typical of the help we were all getting. They calmed our anxieties in a friendly manner with useful information all the time maintaining a professional demeanor. The lieutenant was ever present, watching every step and everyone. She escorted my wife into a room where she looked up every ingredient in the vaccine to calm her fears of bad a reaction. Please relay our gratitude and respect to the people involved.’
Although it was a busy day for all involved, Mauter remembered the exchange.
“This particular beneficiary approached me and had concerns about her medical history and the safety of the vaccine. We discussed her concerns. I showed her information from the CDC specific to her situation. I assured her that from what she had discussed with me there was little risk of a reaction and she may go ahead with the vaccine. I assured her of the safety precautions we had in place should she have a reaction and that we were ready to respond if need be. I offered her to stay with us in the post-vaccine observation room for a longer period of time if that would make her more comfortable. In the end she ended up getting the vaccine as stated in her husband’s letter. This to me is a testament to what a little time and education can do to turn around the doubts related to the vaccines,” said Mauter.
NMRTC Bremerton is currently in Phase 1B of the distribution plan, focusing on beneficiaries age 75 and older, along with critical national assets and deploying forces. This was after getting an initial Moderna COVID-19 vaccine shipment Dec. 22, 2020, which received emergency use authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. NMRTC Bremerton began administering the vaccinations the day after.
Mauter affirms that her duty when engaged in supporting the COVID-19 vaccination efforts overlaps on two basic principles.
“Ensuring that vaccines get into arms safely and efficiently, although the (Preventive Medicine) teams make this an easy tasking. They are true professionals and take their mission very seriously,” noted Mauter. “(Also) providing education to participants about the vaccines in order address their concerns and increase their confidence in immunization. Hopefully this also helps propagate the spread of truthful information and trust in the vaccines.”
“It is imperative to the mission to have a Navy Nurse Corps officer available to address any raised concerns or questions,” continued Mauter. “There are a lot of unknowns, misinformation, and fear surrounding the vaccines which, often times, can be mitigated by providing accurate information. If I can spend a few moments discussing concerns and presenting factual data I can increase the likelihood that an individual will be vaccinated and I have served my purpose.”
Following the Department of Defense distribution plan for administering the vaccine, in conjunction with the CDC, military medical treatment facilities (MTF) like NMRTC Bremerton are using a prioritized, phased approach to provide the vaccine for all active duty and reserve components, TRICARE Prime and TRICARE Select beneficiaries, and select DoD civilians and contract personnel authorized to receive immunizations from DoD.
Yet it can be trying at time, confesses Mauter.
“The sheer volume of individuals we are trying to vaccinate coupled with a varying vaccine delivery schedule makes it a challenging environment. The schedule changes daily with shifting priorities and availability. However, at the end of the day we are there to ensure people are vaccinated and we have been very successful in this mission so far. When we have vaccines we get them into arms,” Mauter stressed.
The weekend mass vaccination effort – called a shot-exercise, or SHOTEX – was specifically designed to safely and timely administer the vaccine to as many as possible that day. For Mauter, there was fulfillment being involved in the evolution.
“I would say the educational piece is the most gratifying aspect. Vaccination is a critical component to getting our lives back to normal, and there are a lot of questions about the safety of these vaccines. I am happy to spend time discussing concerns with anyone that walks through the door. If I can speak to the EUA process, ingredients of the vaccine, contraindications, or even just what symptoms to expect afterwards then I have armed these individuals with truthful information to pass on to anyone else who may be in doubt,” Mauter said.
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