Status of COVID-19 Vaccination For Military Families
Military Families’ Covid-19 Vaccination Status
The Defense Health Agency (DHA) has stated that staring in April, the COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be widely available to military families.
During a virtual town hall hosted by Blue Star Families and the American Red Cross, Director of DHA Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Place discussed the coronavirus and the availability of vaccines for military families. These vaccinations will not be offered everywhere, but should be accessible sometime in April at a “significant number” of military treatment facilities (MTF).
All MTFs are following the Department of Defense’s (DoD) phased distribution process, and most are currently vaccinating in the 1B and 1C stages. According to DHA, “there are more than 5 million TRICARE beneficiaries between the ages of 18 and 64,” and most of them fall into Stage 2, those with no underlying medical conditions.
It’s reported that around one-third of eligible military-affiliated people in all categories of Stage 1 who have been offered the vaccine have declined it. Lt. Gen. Place said that of those he spoke with who chose to reject the vaccination, many “said they wanted to wait because they feel others are at greater risk for COVID than themselves.”
Across all of the U.S., over 80 million doses have been delivered. Of the DoD’s vaccine reserves, about 1.3 million doses, and 85% of available supply, have been administered in the military community worldwide. The number of vaccination sites have increased from 16 locations in late December, to 335 locations today.
Not all MTFs worldwide are administering at equal levels, however. Just last week, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) near Ramstein Air Base in Germany announced it will likely have to cancel vaccination appointments as current supplies are dwindling and new deliveries are expecting to be delayed. And with cases across Germany increasing exponentially, it leaves many wondering when their turn will come.
LRMC is the largest U.S. military hospital overseas and according to their Facebook page, they state that “the current demand for the COVID vaccine continues to outweigh the supply.” Other bases across Germany are reporting the same issues, many of whom have not left the 1A and 1B stages (health care workers, first responders, deploying troops, etc.) at their MTFs. Regional Health Command Europe spokesman Gino Mattorano said, “We haven’t moved beyond (that), in most cases, because we haven’t received enough vaccines to be able to do that yet.” This information is in direct “contrast with commands in the U.S., the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East, several of whom have recently received large vaccine shipments.” Based on this information, it is highly unlikely that military families in Europe will be receiving the vaccination by April.
Nonetheless, the federal government has moved to support the vaccination of military families by just recently passing the Saves Lives Act. This bill orders the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to provide vaccinations to any veteran, veteran spouse, or caregiver who wants one, regardless of whether they are enrolled in VA health care or not. Supporting Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. said, “Vaccines are our best shot at ending this pandemic,” and this bill would help to get more shots into more arms.
To date, there are a very low number of side effects when receiving the vaccine, and no known deaths. Both Lt. Gen. Place and Dr. Anthony Fauci (director of the NIAID at the National Institutes of Health) say that getting COVID-19 holds more significant dangers than simply getting vaccinated, especially considering the known (and even unknown) long-term effects of the virus. The safety records of the vaccine is public information at www.cdc.gov and you can track the DoD’s response to the virus and support of getting vaccinated at www.defense.gov.