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Cannon behind the scenes: vaccinations increase vitality

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Alexxis Pons Abascal
  • 27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
*This feature is eleventh in a series of Air Commando highlights at Cannon.

You are ushered into a sterile room and asked to take a seat on a bed lined with butcher paper. You're asked to expose your arm, as rubbing alcohol is applied to your skin. As your heartbeat and pulse quicken, you wonder why you even have to be here in the first place.

While being vaccinated may not be one of the most exciting procedures, medical technicians with the 27th Special Operations Medical Operations Squadron immunizations clinic at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., take every possible step to ensure patients receive first-rate care.

"Few people genuinely like coming into our office for vaccinations," said Staff Sgt. Dena Levari, 27 SOMDOS NCOIC of immunizations. "Job confidence, in our ability and performance, is a huge factor in reassuring patients and helping calm their nerves."

The two-person team in the immunizations clinic is responsible for providing vaccinations to all active duty personnel as well as beneficiaries, to include retirees, qualifying contractors and military dependents.

The immunizations clinic also has allergy skin testing capabilities. Patients can be tested for common and some not-so-common allergens prevalent in the surrounding area.

"We perform skin tests literally on the backs of patients," said Levari. "We place small amounts of allergen solutions in rows on the patients back and wait for reactions to take place. At that point, patients can sit with a provider who will determine whether or not they are a good candidate for immunotherapy."

The patients who qualify for immunotherapy will be injected with small concentrations of allergens they reacted to. The treatment can greatly decrease the amount of medication needing to be taken, which can directly benefit those individuals on daily allergy prescriptions.

The immunizations clinic directly impacts mission readiness by being present at deployment lines to ensure troops are current on vaccinations before potential exposure to foreign diseases and illnesses.

"All active duty personnel are vaccinated to safeguard against the likelihood of outbreaks and minimize infection threats," said Levari. "While the U.S. doesn't face certain health concerns like polio or small pox, certain third world countries, unfortunately, still do. By vaccinating our people with these viruses, we can protect children and the elderly, who are considered high-risk."

According to Levari, some parents neglect immunizing their children due to the belief that doing so could cause or increase health problems.

"There are no legitimate or conclusive medical findings that suggest immunizing yourself or your children could cause more harm than good," said Levari. "While we can't mandate you to vaccinate your children unless it's required for the Child Development Center, for instance, it is highly encouraged for community health and wellbeing."

Advances in medical research have taken the once female-specifically marketed vaccination, Gardasil, used to treat against four types of the Human Papillomavirus, and made it safe for use on males as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HPV is the most commonly-spread sexually transmitted virus in the U.S. At least 50 percent of sexually active people will have genital HPV at some time in their lives.

"Helping our personnel and members of the Cannon community stay healthy and resilient is something our clinic takes extremely serious," said Levari. "Excellence in all we do is critical when dealing with immunizations. Reactions to vaccinations are a low likelihood, but part of making an uncomfortable experience a good one is letting our people know we care and are here to take care of them."