Susanne M. Schafer, AP
Thousands of Army training recruits line up at least once more before heading home for the holidays, this time for mass inoculations against swine flu. The Army's largest training camp, Fort Jackson, just outside Columbia, S.C., and other posts are hurrying to finish the shots before the year-end break. More than 40,000 soldiers in advanced and basic training will head home over the next two weeks in a massive troop movement known as “block leave,” Army officials stated.
“We have been very aggressive in trying to assure the safety of our soldiers,” said Maj. Soo Hee Kim-Delio, the Army physician in charge of the inoculations at Fort Jackson. “Our basic training population is at particularly high risk.” This is due to their age, the physical stress of basic training and from living at close quarters with hundreds of other recruits, Kim-Delio said. When they return home, they may rub shoulders with a host of relatives or be around children fresh from exposure at school.
Fort Jackson recorded the Army's first death from complications of swine flu when Spc. Christopher Hogg of Deltona, Fla., died Sept. 10 from pneumonia due to H1N1 influenza, authorities said. The base started the shots about two weeks ago and expects to vaccinate as many as 9,000 soldiers by the end of this week, along with another 2,000 by the middle of next week. The trainers who remain on post, the Army's medical work force, family members, pregnant women and those with certain medical conditions such as asthma, also will get the shots – for a total of about 15,000 doses, Kim-Delio said.
Overall, the Department of Defense purchased 2.7 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine, which it is trying to deliver to soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines around the globe before the end of the year, department spokesman Col. Wayne Hachey said.
At Fort Knox, KY, home of the Army's Armor School, about 13,000 soldiers have been vaccinated for the swine flu, but the post won't get another shipment of doses until January. Capt. Franklin Hogue, who is in charge of the flu program there, said they have vaccinated approximately 70 percent of their troops.