Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center received its initial shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine and began inoculating healthcare workers and first responders within hours Tuesday, igniting hope that there is a light at the end of the global pandemic tunnel.

“Offering the vaccine to our healthcare workers and first responders is critical to ensuring we have a healthy and ready medical force to provide care to the Soldiers and beneficiaries at Fort Hood,” Col. Richard G. Malish, commander, Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, said. “Being one of the first military hospitals to acquire and deliver the vaccine puts CRDAMC in a terrific position to begin affording the Soldiers, family members, and retirees of the Great Place protection through immunity. We have embraced the intent of Operation Warp Speed and are moving out quickly and safely.”

After offering the vaccine to all healthcare workers and first responders, CRDAMC will continue distribution following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines in accordance with the Department of Defense’s deliberate and phased approach to distribute the vaccine to beneficiaries safely. CRDAMC’s distribution plan, termed Operation Safeguard by Fort Hood commanding general Lt. Gen. Pat White, will follow the plan advancing the vaccine to mission forces, immediate response forces, contingency response forces, deploying Soldiers, essential personnel and high-risk beneficiaries. Soldiers and other healthy beneficiaries can expect to receive the vaccine during the second or third distribution wave in 2021.

Similar to the rest of the Nation, TRICARE beneficiaries in central Texas can expect the process to span several months.

CRDAMC officials encourage community members to continue to practice protection measures like wearing face coverings, practicing social distancing, washing hands frequently, using hand sanitizer and exercising virtual health options for medical needs. Community members can limit their exposure and prevent the spread of the virus until wider distribution of the vaccine is complete.

The COVID-19 vaccine is being offered to volunteers in accordance with the CDC guidelines following its approval for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration announced on Friday. The vaccine is administered in two doses about 21 days apart. The vaccine is being administered at the main hospital and Shoemaker Soldier Readiness Processing Center. Recipients will receive vaccination record instructions for receiving the second dose, at the time of their first doses.

Col. Karin Nicholson an intensive care doctor at CRDAMC, expressed confidence in the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I have a strong belief that this is going to be very, very effective in protecting us from the COVID virus,” Nicholson said.

Cecanti Williams, a licensed vocational nurse at CRDAMC, prepared the first vaccine doses for administration to her colleagues at Fort Hood.

“I’m thankful for being here and being able to help make history,” Williams said.

CRDAMC leaders plan to provide weekly updates about the vaccine plan and provide updates about the implementation.