story and photo by MAJ Cind King, JFHQs, S.C. National Guard Public Affairs
COLUMBIA, S.C. – During September drills, military medics in South Carolina National Guard armories and in units around the state began vaccinating fellow Guard members against the influenza virus. Soldiers and Airmen are receiving their annual flu vaccination as required to sustain readiness with the onset of flu season.
Sgt. 1st Class Ryan West, a medic with the Joint Force Headquarters, South Carolina National Guard said it is mandatory for service members to get the flu vaccination, unless they have a medical condition with a letter from a physician stating why they cannot receive the vaccination.
“We will keep providing the vaccination over the next few months until we reach 100 percent,” said West. “It is free for Soldiers when they get it from the unit, but they may choose to get one from their doctor or pharmacy.”
West said service members who choose to receive the vaccination from another source other than the military, must bring documentation and proof to the unit medic, showing that they received the vaccination against the flu. Unit medics will ensure vaccinations are updated in their medical records.
“We’re in the business of having service members who are physically fit and medically ready,” said Brig. Gen. R. Van McCarty, deputy adjutant general, South Carolina National Guard. “We must take all preventive measure to ensure our Guard Soldiers and Airmen are healthy and ready to do their missions when called. From a medical standpoint, the flu vaccination is a critical component to a healthy force.”
West said the flu is highly contagious and is easily spread through sneezing or coughing. Hand washing is critical to reducing the chance of passing germs from person to person. Because the flu strain changes every year, it is important for service members to be vaccinated before every flu season.
According to West, symptoms of the flu can include body aches, high fever, cough, sore throat, and congestion. He said if anyone exhibits these symptoms, even if they had the flu vaccination, they should see their doctor.
Guard members who have questions about their unit’s influenza vaccination schedule should contact their unit medic or first sergeant.