By Ileen Kennedy
Utah National Guard Public Affairs
The Utah National Guard, in cooperation with the Utah Department of Health, expanded its support of the COVID-19 mission in January by administering vaccinations to Guard members and the civilian population.
"It's a historic response. We're just glad to be a part of it," said Tech. Sgt. Eric Bornemeier, a medic and the medical team noncommissioned officer in charge. Since early May, Bornemeier has been on the Guard’s COVID-19 response team and helped build the program they are using today.
The UTNG received its first vaccine shipment and began immunizing Guard first-line responders at the beginning of January. A critical care nurse with the Utah Air National Guard, 1st Lt. Lydia Hoover, was the first Utah Guard member to receive her vaccine. Hoover, along with Air and Army personnel, continued throughout that day immunizing as many Soldiers and Airmen as they could. Vaccinations continued throughout the following weeks.
“The demand for vaccines is overwhelming,” said Capt. Jeremy Metzger, the commanding officer in charge of the medical support team.
On Jan. 19, 2021, a team of Utah National Guard Soldiers and Airmen began administering vaccinations to civilians 70-years or older in Utah County . Metzger said they administered 1,400 vaccines at their one location.
“In these teams you have physician assistants, nurses and medics who are trained to administer that vaccine,” said Bornemeier.
The Guard members work between eight to 10 hours each day and each team member vaccinates about 150 people, which adds up to thousands being vaccinated each day.
“I see my team come back late at night with nothing but beaming smiles,” said Metzger. “They are super happy to get out and help the community.”
As the nurses and medics gave vaccinations, other UTNG support personnel were monitoring traffic and helping in other areas where they could assist state and county employees.
“We don’t want nurses and medical professionals tied up,” said Sgt. Bronemeier.
“They are slammed,” said Capt. Metzger. "They are super busy, and I think it’s only going to go up.”
Getting vaccinated is an important step to help Utah and the country eliminate COVID-19.
“We are excited to be on the frontlines of helping the governor in the delivery of vaccines,” said Bornemeier. “We are here to serve the community, our families and neighbors; it’s our job as Guards members to be of help and to serve.”
Metzger organized multiple strike teams that are ready to mobilize across the entire state as requests for help come in and the supply of vaccinations continues to grow.
“If a county needs us, we can mobilize our people in a matter of hours, and get down there and vaccinate people all day,” said Metzger. “We are prepared to keep going as long as the governor and the state of Utah needs us to go for.”
While the fight is nowhere near over, there is a shared optimism that this is a step towards the country recovering from COVID-19 and returning to some form of normalcy.
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