177th Fighter Wing and 108th Wing Support COVID-19 Vaccination Mission at the Atlantic City Convention Center

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Hunter Hires
  • 177th Fighter Wing

Members of the 108th Wing and 177th Fighter Wing have established a Point of Distribution (POD) center for the COVID-19 vaccination at the Atlantic City Convention Center, with personnel from AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center.

The Air National Guardsmen and AtlantiCare personnel at the Atlantic City Convention Center POD vaccinated 259 residents on day one, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2021, and plan on ramping up to several thousands of vaccinations a day.

“The goal for the POD is to ramp up to vaccinating 2,400 individuals a day, on a seven-day schedule,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Sean J. McCauley, 177th Operations Group intel analyst. “The idea is that we get as many people in New Jersey vaccinated as fast as possible, ensuring that they're available for their second vaccination, and ensuring that we get the full vaccination circle-cycle complete.”

McCauley is also the officer in charge of registration at the Atlantic City Convention Center POD, making sure that residents are admitted accurately and correctly, before AtlantiCare personnel administer the vaccinations.

Air National Guardsmen serving at the POD understand the importance of distributing these vaccinations, and speak against the rumored suspicions that the vaccine is harmful to the public.

“Vaccines have been around for a long time,” said Staff Sgt. April L. Kelso, 177th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter and non-commissioned officer in charge of the observation area at the Atlantic City POD. “Vaccines are important, and they make them for a reason. I know that people are hesitant about this one, since it was produced so fast, but I think they should have trust that people aren’t trying to create a vaccine to harm the population.”

The Atlantic City POD has safely administered over 2,500 vaccinations since Jan. 22, 2021, and aims to achieve much larger numbers in the future.

“To me, getting the area vaccinated is to ensure that people are confident that they have peace,” said McCauley. “We're trying to get back to a way of life that, at this point, is now a year ago. I think that many of the patients and the citizens of New Jersey coming here to get vaccinated are just one step closer to getting to see their families again, getting to spend time in the groups that they used to; game nights, going out, having a nice dinner, barbecues. So, I think the feeling of normalcy is what everyone's trying to gain, in a very unpredictable and uncharacteristic time in our lives.”

Besides the patients and personnel serving at the POD, the Atlantic City Convention Center has had some very important visitors, such as the N.J. state command chief, Chief Master Sgt. Michael J. Rakauckas, and New Jersey’s 56th First Lady, Tammy Murphy. These important guests, as well as the patients being vaccinated at the POD, have offered nothing but positive feedback to the Guardsmen and AtlantiCare personnel.

“The patients are all excited, and very appreciative about what we've been doing, and how the process works,” said Kelso. “I get to hear all the good stuff at the end, such as, ‘I enjoyed being there.’ Being in charge of the observation area, I’m in the spot where we probably talk to the patients the most, while engaging with the public the entire time. They’ve been saying that they’re very lucky and very fortunate that they even made it in here to get the vaccine, and that they thought they’d infect their family members, which they had some anxiety about. They are pretty positive overall about their experience.”

Not only are the residents satisfied with their treatment, but also with the operation at the Atlantic City Convention Center POD itself.

“From the patient's standpoint, from the citizens of New Jersey, we have been told that they are amazed by the experience that they have had here,” said McCauley. “Granted, it's getting vaccinated; it's not Disney World. But, they are pleasantly surprised by how smooth the operation is going. They appreciate everyone here. So, from that standpoint, I feel that we're doing very well.”

The Atlantic City Convention Center POD will be operating, at least, until late March, and the New Jersey Air National Guardsmen and AtlantiCare personnel have been making large, impactful waves in regards to safety and security for the lives of the residents of New Jersey.