Q. Will vaccines be available at MTFs? When will they be available?
A. DoD initially expects limited quantity and a phased delivery of COVID-19 vaccine following FDA Emergency Use Authorization. Initial DoD distribution sites were selected by the DoD’s COVID Task Force from sites recommended by the military services and U.S. Coast Guard to best support several criteria: anticipated supply chain requirements for initially approved vaccines (i.e. ultra-cold, bulk storage facility); sizeable local population to facilitate rapid vaccine administration to priority personnel across the military services; and sufficient necessary medical personnel to administer vaccines and actively monitor vaccine recipients after initial and second-dose administration. Initial vaccine doses will become available at select locations in late 2020 and early 2021, and at additional sites in spring 2021.
Q. Why is the vaccine not available here?
A. The distribution process is phase-driven to protect the DoD from COVID-19 as quickly as possible. In the initial phases, a limited number of sites were selected to receive vaccine. Initial sites also allow DoD to validate distribution and administration processes and structures and guide senior leader decisions to increase distribution and administration as vaccine manufacturing and CDC allocation permits. Initial site performance will guide follow-on site identification and the scaling of DoD distribution and administration processes.
Q. Will TRICARE beneficiaries including military retirees have access to the vaccine?
A. Yes, based on DoD prioritization. While there is limited vaccine availability, vaccination distribution prioritization will focus on those providing direct medical care, maintaining essential national security and installation functions, deploying forces, and those beneficiaries at the highest risk for developing severe illness from COVID-19. TRICARE beneficiaries empaneled at a DoD Military Treatment Facility (MTF) are eligible to receive the vaccine at a DoD MTF. TRICARE beneficiaries who receive care at DoD MTFs on a space-available basis can alternately receive vaccine through the local civilian jurisdiction.
Q. Why is the plan phase driven and not population or hot spot focused?
A. The distribution process is phase driven to safely protect the DoD from COVID-19 as quickly as possible. In the initial phase, a limited number of sites were selected to receive vaccine. Initial sites also allow DoD to validate distribution and administration processes and structures and guide senior leader decisions to increase distribution as vaccine manufacturing and CDC allocation permits. Initial site performance will guide follow-on site identification and the scaling of DoD distribution and administration processes.
Q. Where should I be vaccinated?
A. To the greatest extent possible, beneficiaries in priority groups who are enrolled at Military Treatment Facilities (MTF) should come to the MTF to be vaccinated. This will ensure the maximum number of vaccine opportunities allocated to jurisdictions other than DoD are available for the non-DoD population. TRICARE beneficiaries who receive care at DoD MTFs on a space-available basis can alternately receive vaccine through the local civilian jurisdiction.
Q. How will DoD track personnel who receive a COVID vaccine?
A. DoD will track COVID vaccine administration through existing medical record reporting systems.
Q. If I already had COVID-19, should I still get a vaccine?
A. Yes, because duration of immunity following COVID-19 infection is unknown, and the vaccine may be effective in protecting previously infected people.
Q. Will we still need to wear masks and practice physical distancing once a vaccine is available?
A. Yes. The intent of the vaccine is to prevent the spread of COVID 19. We will still need to wear cloth face covings and practice physical distancing to limit the spread of the virus. Additionally, we will not have enough vaccine initially to vaccinate everyone who wants the vaccine and COVID-19 pandemic risks will continue. We will continue to recommend wearing masks and practicing physical distancing, for everyone, until pandemic risk of COVID-19 is substantially reduced.
Q. What is an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA)?
A. Drugs and vaccines have to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure that only safe and effective products are available to the American public. In situations when there is good scientific reason to believe that a product is safe and is likely to treat or prevent disease, the FDA may authorize its emergency use under specific circumstances. Vaccines authorized for emergency use are offered on a voluntary basis.
Q. What has DoD done to ensure the vaccine(s) they are distributing is safe?
A. Vaccines and therapeutics to prevent and treat diseases are developed in stages. In Phase 1 Trials researchers test an experimental drug or treatment in a small group of people for the first time. In Phase 2 Trials the experimental drug or treatment is given to a larger group of people to see if it is effective and to evaluate its safety further. In Phase 3 Trials the experimental study drug or treatment is given to very large groups of people. Researchers confirm its effectiveness, monitor side effects, compare it to commonly used treatments, and collect information that will allow the experimental drug or treatment to be used safely. Manufactures are required to submit their raw data for the FDA to review. Safety, immune response, and efficacy data from the trial stages are submitted to the FDA before they are authorized for use and distribution.
Q. Who will be the first to get the vaccine?
A. Vaccination distribution prioritization will focus on those providing direct medical care, maintaining essential national security and installation functions, deploying forces, and those at the highest risk for developing severe illness from COVID-19, before other members of the DoD population.
Q. Should children get the vaccine?
A. The current vaccine trials have not studied the safety and efficacy for children and manufactures are not currently asking the FDA for authorization to vaccinate children
Q: How long will protection last following vaccination?
A. We do not know how long protection will last following vaccination but it will be critically important to measure long-term protection (at least two years) in the phase 3 trials and in other groups prioritized for early vaccination. We are still learning about the duration of protection following infection with COVID-19 and it is too early to tell how long protection will last.
Q. Can someone get COVID-19 from the vaccine?
A. No, it is not possible to get COVID-19 from vaccines. Vaccines against COVID-19 use inactivated virus, parts of the virus, or a gene from the virus. None of these can cause COVID-19.
Q. Should I get the vaccine for influenza (flu shot)?
A. Yes, it is very important to get the influenza vaccine, particularly this season when both influenza viruses and COVID-19 will infect people.
Q. Will DoD require all service members to receive the vaccine?
A. No. The vaccine will be offered on a voluntary basis. Priority populations are highly encouraged to receive the vaccine. When formally licensed by the FDA, the DoD may require a vaccine for military personnel or personnel in specific fields, as is the case for the influenza vaccine.
Q. Why should we receive the first-available vaccine when there are several other vaccines still in trials?
A. People who are offered the first-available vaccine are considered to be in groups that are most in need of COVID-19 protection. Vaccinated people will be protecting themselves, as well as their families and all people with whom they interact. Evaluation of the first-available vaccine will continue, even after its pre-licensure release. The release of other vaccines cannot be fully predicted, so people who are offered the first-available vaccine will be encouraged to receive this vaccine.
Q. What is DoD’s supporting role in Operation Warp Speed?
A. DoD's is in support of the Department of Health and Human Services and is harnessing vast DoD logistical expertise to provide the vision and intent for the distribution strategy, while working hand in hand with the CDC to leverage their planning efforts. To that end, Gen. Gustave F. Perna is the OWS chief operating officer responsible for coordination of planning, logistics, security and assurance, supply chain development, and manufacturing in support of OWS. Our unique capabilities will enable faster distribution and administration across the United States than would have otherwise been possible.
Q. Will DoD distribute the vaccine to the American public too?
A. Operation Warp Speed is facilitating vaccine distribution to the American public. HHS and CDC lead planning and implementation, with DoD augmenting the deliberate, comprehensive micro-planning efforts down to the state/territory (jurisdiction) level. At this time, we do not anticipate a large commitment of DoD units or personnel to support the nationwide distribution of vaccines to the US civilian population. DoD’s role is primarily planning staff augmentation and execution oversight in conjunction with and in support of the CDC. Any DoD required logistical support would be by exception and consistent with support of state responses during Defense Support to Civil Authorities.
Q. Which Select Reserve and National Guard personnel will receive the vaccine?
A. Selected Reserve personnel include drilling members of the Federal Reserve and National Guard. Selected Reserve personnel on orders for more than 30 days are included in the active component.
Q. How will DoD work with host nations, who may have not approved COVID 19 vaccines for their national populations, to distribute and administer vaccines to DoD personnel stationed in overseas locations?
A. DoD routinely imports medicines for its personnel, some of which may not be something that can be prescribed in the host country. EUAs have previously been used in foreign nations without significant issues. There are unlikely to be any international or Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) issues with DoD distributing the vaccine to U.S. Service Members or SOFA-status DoD personnel (military dependents, civilian employees and their dependents, and contract personnel) as doing so would be deemed an internal matter and host nations would not intervene.
Q. Is DoD responsible for vaccine distribution to Veterans Affairs facilities?
A. No. The Department of Veterans Affairs is a separate jurisdiction for vaccine distribution. The VA is distributing and administering COVID 19 vaccines to VA staff, long-term care facility residents, and other VA personnel and patients according to the VA’s own plan. The CDC works with 64 jurisdictions, including 50 states, eight territories, six major metropolitan areas, and five federal agencies including DoD, the VA, the Department of State, Indian Health Services, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Please contact the CDC for more information about other jurisdictions and Operation Warp Speed for information about national COVID-19 distribution.