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A Different Mission — How The Military Is Giving Vaccines At The Dome

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Provided by LT John Mike
Members of the military have helped distribute more than 32,000 vaccines to St. Louisans at the large-scale vaccination site at the Dome at America's Center.

In April, members of the military arrived at the Dome at America’s Center in downtown St. Louis to assist the Federal Emergency Management Agency with a 56-day mass vaccination event.

FEMA is known for providing assistance during and after disasters, such as flooding, tornadoes and hurricanes. During the pandemic, the federal agency organized vaccination clinics across the country.

Since FEMA does not have its own medical personnel, it called upon the Navy to administer the Pfizer vaccine. This provided a unique opportunity for the two government agencies to work together.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with two military members about their experience working with FEMA and other agencies to distribute vaccinations at the Dome.

Joining the discussion were Navy Cmdr. Jared Scott, who oversees approximately 90 nurses, doctors and medics, and Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Belisarius Watson, a hospital corpsman.

A Different Mission — How The Military Is Giving Vaccines At The Dome
Hear the conversation with military members about their experience working with FEMA and other agencies to distribute vaccinations at The Dome.

Scott noted that the Navy usually does not provide public services within the U.S.

“Normally, our work is done for active duty, or overseas, or on ships. And so this is really a great opportunity for me to come out here and take care of some of our own,” he said.

The first few weeks of the operation consisted of 14-hour days so that military personnel could set up operations at the Dome. The nurses went through about 16 hours of training to prepare.

“We prepared very well so that when we got here, it was only three days to get ready. And we already knew how to give vaccines, mix vaccines — that part was easy. It was just setting up our processes here at the Dome that took time to put together,” Scott added.

Watson said most people who come to get vaccinations — available at the Dome through June 1 — are excited about the opportunity. He encouraged others to get their shots.

“It's really satisfying and gratifying to see the thankfulness and the excitedness that they have to get these vaccines,” he said.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Lara is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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