The Defense Department has administered more than 800,000 coronavirus vaccines to its personnel so far, as Active-duty troops begin heading out to help the general public get vaccinated as well.
The Pentagon had ordered 1,040,825 vaccine doses as of Feb. 11, with 966,280 delivered to military treatment facilities across the globe, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said. Of those, 800,135 doses have made it into people’s arms—including 580,442 first shots and 210,693 second shots.
“Essentially, we’ve administered 82 percent of all the vaccines delivered,” Kirby said. “The focus is keen and sharp and we’re continuing to do what we can to make vaccines available to all who want them.”
The Pentagon is not tracking how many troops have opted out of the jab, which is still a voluntary procedure, he said. DOD says there is no central way to track who turns down the shot or who wants to wait for inoculation.
The department is trying to instill confidence in the vaccines that are, or may soon be, approved for emergency use in the U.S. First Lady Jill Biden and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who has served as the face of the federal pandemic response for nearly a year, urged troops to get the shot at a recent event.
While Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III has taken the vaccine “because he believes it was the right thing to do for him and for his health and for his family, and for his ability to do the job,” Kirby said, “he recognizes that this is a personal decision that everybody has to make.”
As the vaccine effort ramps up nationwide, the Pentagon is sending out the first Active-duty teams to help the Federal Emergency Management Agency. An Army unit from Fort Carson, Colo., will arrive in Los Angeles to help beginning Feb. 15, Kirby said.
The 222-person team is assigned to the 299th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, and is largely made up of medical personnel, including vaccinators and registered nurses, according to a U.S. Northern Command release.
Last month, Maj. Gen. Chad P. Franks, commander of 15th Air Force at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., also said his personnel were again activated to help with the joint COVID-19 response for a second time during the pandemic. Those Airmen will be part of a headquarters team that helps states rapidly distribute vaccines in short supply, he said.
“Just yesterday, we got activated again, as part of NORTHCOM’s planning to see how we can help the country with vaccinations across the U.S. here in the next couple months,” Franks said during a Jan. 28 Space Force Association event. “Now we’re going through that planning process.”
The Pentagon has authorized more than 1,000 troops to help the Federal Emergency Management Agency, with additional deployments still in the works, Kirby said.