The Pentagon has started COVID-19 vaccinations on a small scale

WASHINGTON (AP) – The initial distribution of the Pentagon coronavirus vaccine will be administered at 16 defense sites in the United States and abroad, with priority given to health workers, emergency services personnel and residents of military retirement homes, officials said Wednesday.

Next in line, once vaccine supplies become available, there will be military personnel providing “critical national capabilities,” such as nuclear weapons crews and cyber security forces, as well as certain military units preparing for deployment.

Vaccinations will be voluntary because Pfizer should initially be given for emergency use. The shots may become mandatory later if the Food and Drug Administration fully authorizes the vaccinations, officials said.

Some Pentagon leaders, including Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller and General Mark Milley, the joint chief of staff, are among those receiving early vaccinations, said Jonathan Hoffman, a Pentagon spokesman. Some of these executives are taking public recordings to demonstrate the Pentagon’s confidence in vaccine safety, he said.

Officials specifically said the military will send 45 military medical personnel to Wisconsin this week to support four civilian hospitals as part of ongoing support to state and local governments struggling with the pandemic. They act on a request from the federal disaster management agency for assistance. Military medical personnel are already assisting hospitals in Texas and North Dakota.

Youtube video thumbnail

The Pentagon will initially receive just under 44,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine, Hoffman said. The timing depends on when the FDA approves the distribution and use of the Pfizer vaccine.

In its first evaluation of the PDA vaccine, FDA scientists confirmed this week that it provides strong protection, giving the government the opportunity to set a green light for the largest vaccination effort in the nation’s history. Independent advisers from the FDA had to meet on Thursday to discuss whether there was enough evidence to recommend vaccinating millions of Americans. The FDA’s final decision and first recordings may follow within days.

Thomas McCaffery, Secretary of Defense for Health, said at a Pentagon press conference that while vaccinations will be at least initially voluntary, he strongly recommends that everyone who is offered the shot do it. The first doses should be ready for use by the FDA within a day or two, he said.

“Everyone is advised to take the vaccine only on the basis of risk,” said Lt. Gen. Ronald Place, director of the Defense Health Agency.

The initial 43,875 doses of Pfizer vaccine will need to be provided in varying amounts at 16 locations, and the distribution will later need to be significantly expanded to reach all military members and civilian residents of the Department of Defense when new doses become available.

The first 16 locations:

– Darnall Army Medical Center, Fort Hood, Texas.

–Wilford Hall at San Antonio Common Base in Texas.

—Madigan Army Medical Center at Lewis McChord Joint Base in Washington.

—Womack Army Medical Center in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

—Navy Branch Medical Clinic at Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida.

—Alameda Health Services at the Coast Guard Base, Alameda, California.

—Marine Medical Center in San Diego (which will also distribute doses to Camp Pendleton Naval Hospital, California).

—Navens Hospital Pensacola, Pensacola, Florida (which will be divided into the Retired Home of the Armed Forces in Gulfport, Mississippi)

—Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland (which will be distributed to the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington DC).

—Portsmouth Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Virginia (which will be assigned to the Portsmouth Coast Guard Base Clinic).

—Indiana National Guard in Franklin, Indiana.

– New York National Guard Medical Headquarters in Watervliet, New York.

Doses of the original Pfizer vaccine are also administered at the Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu and at three overseas locations: Allgood Army Community Hospital at Camp Humphreys, South Korea; Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and Kadena Medical Institute at Kadena Air Base in Japan.