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Pentagon announces who in the military will get COVID vaccine first

A vaccine. (Dreamstime/TNS)
December 10, 2020

On Wednesday, the Department of Defense (DOD) announced its strategy for how it will distribute its first wave of about 44,000 Pfizer-produced Covid-19 vaccines across the military.

In a Pentagon press briefing, defense officials announced the first batch of vaccines will be sent to 16 DOD locations, including three overseas. Defense officials said the sites were chosen for the first wave of Covid-19 vaccinations due to their having a sizable DOD population of high priority personnel as well as having the cold storage capability and sufficient medical personnel necessary to administer the vaccines and monitor vaccine recipients.

The 16 DOD sites and commands to receive the first vaccinations are:

  • Madigan Army Medical Center, Washington
  • U.S. Coast Guard Base Alameda, California
  • Naval Medical Center San Diego and Camp Pendleton, California
  • Tripler Army Medical Center, Hawaii
  • Brooke Army Medical Center, Texas
  • Darnall Army Medical Center, Texas
  • Naval Hospital Pensacola, and Keesler Air Force Base, Florida
  • Naval Branch Health Clinic Jacksonville, Florida
  • Womack Army Medical Center, North Carolina
  • Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, including U.S. Coast Guard Base Portsmouth
  • Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Maryland
  • The Indiana National Guard
  • The New York National Guard
  • Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany
  • Kadena Air Base, Japan
  • Camp Humphreys, Korea

The DOD plans to pre-position the estimated 44,000 vaccines at their 16 sites while they await an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If an EUA is issued, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), will meet to review the EUA and then vote on the order in which vaccines should be administered.

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Thomas McCaffery said, “We expect to have shots in arms of DOD personnel within 20 to 48 hours from the time the ACIP issues its final recommendation.”

McCaffery described the initial vaccination plan as a “control pilot.”

Army Lt. Gen. Ronald J. Place said the DOD will be fully transparent about any adverse effects in the vaccine roll-out.

McCaffery said the DOD plans to administer the vaccine first to health care providers and then to high-risk populations in DOD long-term care facilities, then to those in critical national capability positions, and finally to healthy general DOD populations.

“Future allocations of the COVID-19 vaccine will focus on vaccinating priority populations quickly and safely, while simultaneously refining the intricate planning for the delivery of larger volumes of vaccine in future waves,” McCaffery said.

Place said the DOD is “strongly encouraging everyone to take [the vaccine]” but vaccination will be voluntary while the vaccine remains under an EUA. McCaffery said if the vaccine is eventually fully licensed by the FDA, the DOD may then consider whether to make the vaccine mandatory for its personnel.

McCaffery also said select key DOD leaders will get the vaccine as part of the effort to encourage personnel to also vaccinate. Military.com reported senior DOD officials to receive the vaccine include Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, Deputy Secretary David Norquist, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. John Hyten and Senior Enlisted Adviser to the Joint Chiefs Ramon Colon-Lopez