DOD Announces New Vaccination Totals as Effort Ramps Up

The Pentagon has vaccinated 459,921 service members, of which 123,550 are in the Department of the Air Force, according to new data the Defense Department is providing to the public starting April 21.

As the COVID-19 vaccination effort increases, the Pentagon created a new website outlining how the vaccines are being doled out, noting the new site will be updated three times per week. As of April 20, the Defense Department had administered more than 2.6 million doses, at a utilization rate of 80.68 percent. 

To coincide with the broader public availability of vaccines opening to all Americans age 16 and older, the Pentagon this week made it so all eligible Defense Department beneficiaries can make an appointment to get vaccinated, said Dr. Terry Adirim, the acting assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, in an April 21 briefing. 

The Pentagon is working to increase vaccine availability to overseas locations, where service members and beneficiaries have had more trouble securing vaccine appointments. This week, the Pentagon announced it is redirecting 31,500 additional Moderna doses to U.S. European Command on top of its existing allocation, along with more than 30,000 additional Moderna doses to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and U.S. Central Command. These doses will be delivered by about May 21, and about 80 percent of overseas forces should be able to schedule a vaccination appointment by the beginning of June, said Lt. Gen. Ronald J. Place, the director of the Defense Health Agency. 

Because of this increase in Moderna doses, the Pentagon expects the impacts of halting administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to have a limited impact, Adirim said. That vaccine, because it is only one shot and does not need to be frozen in storage, was expected to be key to vaccinating overseas troops. 

Senior military officials and local commanders are urging service members to receive the vaccine, though the available shots are still under an emergency use authorization and as such are voluntary.

While some private sector companies are encouraging their employees to get the vaccines through initiatives such as extra time off, commanders are not able to do so, Place said. Providing rewards for receiving something that is voluntary could be considered “undue command influence,” so commanders should only work to inform their troops about the positives of receiving a vaccine, he said.