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News | May 11, 2021

Army Medicine Europe makes steady progress in COVID-19 vaccine distribution

By Kirk Frady

Vaccination appointments are available for all eligible members of the military community, and Army medical treatment facilities in Europe continue to make steady progress in offering vaccines to everyone who wants one.

To date, approximately 30 percent of the military community in Europe have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and about 16 percent have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Our goal is to be able to offer at least one dose to every member of the Army military community by the first week of June,” said Brig. Gen. Mark Thompson, Regional Health Command Europe commanding general. “In addition, everyone who wants to be vaccinated should be fully vaccinated by the middle of July.”

On Dec. 18, 2020 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for the Moderna vaccine, thus making it available to the Department of Defense for distribution and administration to DoD personnel.

“On Dec. 28, just 10 days after the emergency use authorization was issued, our MTFs at Vilseck and Grafenwoehr were administering their first vaccines to healthcare workers and first responders,” said Thompson. “That’s a testament to the outstanding work done by the entire COVID vaccination team, starting with the Defense Department and all the way down to the medics who put the first shots in arms.”

Col. Scott Mower, force health protection officer for Regional Health Command Europe, says the COVID-19 vaccination rollout in Europe has required close coordination between RHCE, U.S. European Command, U.S. Army Europe and Africa, Senior Responsible Officers and U.S. Army garrisons.

“The SROs, garrisons and other DOD partners continue to play a very active role in the COVID-19 vaccination process,” Mower said. “Their efforts are vital to our ability to report vaccination requirements, manage tier distribution, and they play a key role in many of our vaccination events. We could not do this without them.”

While it has taken some time to work through priority tiers and offer the vaccine to everyone in the military community, vaccines are now widely available at MTFs across the theater.

“Getting vaccinated not only protects you, but it helps protect your family, your battle buddy, your unit and your community,” Thompson said.

Military leaders are also working on a plan to bring a limited supply of Pfizer vaccine to the military community in Europe, specifically for the adolescent population.

“As you may have heard, the Emergency Use Authorization for the Pfizer vaccine currently includes 16-17 year olds,” said Thompson. “We expect a shipment of Pfizer vaccine in mid to late May.

“Initially we will move forward with vaccination of 16-17 year olds, and if the Pfizer Emergency Use Authorization is extended to 12-15 year olds we will vaccinate that age group as well,” Thompson said.

Details of those plans are being finalized, but information on how and where the Pfizer vaccine will be offered to the adolescent population will be provided as soon as it’s available.

For those who might be on the fence about deciding whether to get vaccinated or not, the additional benefit of getting vaccinated, is being able to return to many pre-COVID activities.

“Our host nations and the United States are making it easier for vaccinated people to travel, eat at restaurants, shop in stores and participate in other activities, so I’d encourage you to get vaccinated,” Thompson said. “However, those privileges for vaccinated people are only valid 14 days after receiving the Janssen vaccine, or 14 days after the SECOND Moderna shot, so don’t skip that second shot.”

“In addition, it takes about six weeks from the time you receive your first Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to achieve full effectiveness,” Thompson said. “That’s because you have to wait 28 days between the first and second doses, and it takes 14 days after the second dose for the vaccine to achieve full effectiveness.”

That means that those who want to take full advantage of those civilian travel and host nation privileges this summer should get vaccinated as soon as possible.
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