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Doc’s Medical Minute: Update on influenza vaccinations, COVID testing for pre-travel

Airman smiling in a doctor's coat.

Medical Minute by U.S. Air Force Col. Ryan Mihata, 86th Medical Group commander, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Regina Burbidge)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany --

Thanks to everyone who came to get their influenza vaccine last week!  We immunized more than 6,000 people from across the KMC.  It was a huge success, and we thank our Landstuhl Regional Medical Center teammates for their collaboration.  There will be other (smaller venue) opportunities in the coming weeks if you still need to get your influenza shot; stay tuned for an announcement.  The good news is that levels of influenza in our area remain exceedingly low.  According to the European CDC, across Europe only one out of about 900 surveillance samples was positive for influenza. 

On the COVID front, numbers in Kaiserslautern are trending downward, although still high between 95-117 cases per 100,000 population.  As most of you know, Germany extended its lockdown restrictions to the middle of February with increased requirements for specific mask wear in certain areas.  For up to date information, please visit: https://www.ramstein.af.mil/COVID-19/.      

New DoD and CDC guidance is directing increased COVID testing related to travel.  Commercial airlines now require a negative COVID test within 72 hours for commercial travel to the United States.  To attempt to meet some of this requirement, the 86th Medical Group started pre-travel testing for official travel and emergency leave only.  The testing is from 7:30-10:00 a.m. Monday-Friday at the Ramstein Enlisted Club.  This is on a walk-in basis, and can be accomplished in less than an hour to provide you documentation for the airline.  It is intended for Air Force personnel assigned to Air Force installations in the KMC, including uniformed members, civilians and dependents who are traveling for official purposes or for emergency leave.  Any other travel must be worked through commercial locations on the economy.  Guidance is changing rapidly.  Stay aware by checking the Ramstein COVID webpage and social media accounts. 

Lastly, we are out of our first shipment of COVID vaccines.  This shipment was primarily for first responders and frontline personnel.  We have ordered the next shipment, but we do not expect that to arrive for at least a couple weeks.  Starting Feb. 1, we will be giving the second dose to the people who were immunized with the first shipment.  As a reminder, the second shot should be given around 28 days after the first.  Our local partners off base have been aggressively vaccinating, as well.  Approximately 1.5 million Germans have received at least one dose of vaccine.  Sadly, in the United States the number of deaths rose to more than 410,000, which is more American deaths than our country experienced in World War II.  I hope you all stay safe and healthy.