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Malmstrom AFB begins implementing COVID vaccine mandate

Col. Mark Pomerinke, 341st Medical Group commander, receives the first round of COVID-19 vaccinations given to medical personnel and first responders.
Senior Airmen Lauren Lacaprara, left, and Bayli Moore, 341st Healthcare Operations Squadron medical material technicians, open a shipment of delivered COVID-19 vaccines
Posted at 12:39 PM, Aug 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-30 14:46:08-04

GREAT FALLS — On Saturday, Aug. 28, Malmstrom Air Force Base began administering the Pfizer vaccine to personnel in accordance with new guidance from the Department of Defense mandating the FDA-approved vaccine.

The policy calls for the vaccination of all service members who have not already received an Emergency Use Authorized (EUA) vaccine.

Colonel Anita Feugate Opperman, commander of the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom, said in a news release: “The health and resilience of our service members is a matter of readiness. In order to look out for the well-being of our Airmen and our Wing’s mission, our installation will become compliant with this guidance as efficiently as possible.”

The mandate, sent in a memorandum from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Aug. 24, followed the FDA’s formal licensure of the Pfizer-BioNTech COMIRNATY COVID-19 vaccine on Aug. 23, 2021.

"Mandatory vaccinations are familiar to all of our Service members, and mission-critical inoculation is almost as old as the U.S. military itself," Austin wrote. "Our administration of safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines has produced admirable results to date, and I know the Department of Defense will come together to finish the job, with urgency, professionalism, and compassion."

Austin said in the memo that service members who have received Moderna or J&J vaccines will still be considered fully vaccinated, but service members who have previously been infected with the coronavirus are not considered fully inoculated.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said last week that 68% of active duty service members are fully vaccinated, and more than 76% have received one dose.

Malmstrom began vaccinating military personnel in late December 2020.

Colonel Mark Pomerinke, the commander of the 341st Medical Group, was one of the first to receive the vaccine, and said at the time: “We’re glad to begin taking this next step forward in our ongoing pandemic effort. Our team has done an outstanding job this past year of providing for the needs of our military members, their families and the local retiree population. We had been preparing for the vaccine’s arrival, and now that it’s here we are excited to begin distribution.”