DoD Making ‘Good, Steady Progress’ on COVID-19 Shots

DoD Making ‘Good, Steady Progress’ on COVID-19 Shots

soldier giving vaccine
Photo by: U.S. Army/Spc. Robert P Wormley III

More than 60% of active-duty troops have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose—and that number is “climbing daily,” according to the head of the Defense Health Agency.

“We’ve directly administered almost 3.5 million doses to our eligible beneficiaries and coordinated at least another 800,000 doses of vaccine for our Tricare providers and retail pharmacy networks,” Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Place, director of the Defense Health Agency, told Congress on May 25.

Despite the challenges and mission requirements caused by the pandemic, Place said he couldn’t recall any area with “significant long-term concerns” about being able to provide health care. “It’s all about knowing who you have, what their capabilities are and utilizing your talent in the ... highest priority areas on the day that you need them,” Place said.

While speaking to reporters on May 20, Dr. Terry Adirim, acting assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said only 37% of active-duty troops were vaccinated during the Pentagon’s last update one month ago.

“We’re making good, steady progress,” Adirim said, adding that the numbers of infections and positive tests are lower among DoD personnel than the civilian population. The difference, she said, shows “force health protection measures are working.”

The update from defense health leaders comes as DoD continues to revise force protection policies, such as mask wearing and travel, to align with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Following the CDC’s guidance, Adirim said, “fully vaccinated DoD personnel can safely participate in most activities and are no longer required to wear a mask indoors or outdoors at most DoD facilities,” while unvaccinated staff should continue wearing masks.

Earlier this month, DoD began shipping more doses abroad after the Food and Drug Administration expanded the vaccine’s emergency use authorization for 12 and above, she said. According to Adirim, “there will be enough” of both doses for all overseas adolescents.

“We know our fight against COVID-19 isn't over yet, but the CDC's announcement underscores the fact that these vaccines work,” Adirim said. “They protect the recipient and their family members and will enable us to get back to normal.”