Not only are we approaching 16% of the population being fully vaccinated for the COVID-19 virus in the United States, but nearly 28% have had at least one dose of the vaccine. As our total vaccination numbers continue to climb, we are becoming cautiously optimistic about national immunity and turning a corner from the impact of the global pandemic. However, the challenges around the globe are not over, with varying case numbers and different vaccination rates.
U.S. Military Vaccine Story
Our military is another story. As of last week, more than 600,000 Service members have had their first COVID-19 vaccine. It is the goal of Department of Defense to have all Service members fully vaccinated by the beginning of summer, according to Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, Dr. Terry Adirim.
Because the vaccine has been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use only, the DoD determined that they cannot make the COVID-19 vaccination mandatory. A waiver from the President of the United States, could bypass this usage rule. On the March 24, lawmakers sent a letter to President Biden requesting the President issue a “Waiver of Informed Consent” making COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for all U.S. Military Service Members.
“I want to use this opportunity to thank every service member who has gotten vaccinated,” said Adirim. “They are not only protecting themselves but they’re also contributing to the safety of their teammates, their families and their communities.”
Currently, the military health system has 343 worldwide sites to administer the vaccine. Service members can choose from Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson. While Pfizer and Moderna require two doses and cold storage, Johnson & Johnson is only one shot and does not have a cold storage requirement.
Military Families in Line for the Vaccine
But what about military families? Will they able to get their shots anytime soon? Currently, TRICARE is referring recipients to local or state health department COVID-19 vaccination sites and participating pharmacies. The TRICARE website also states your civilian provider can assist you with the shots. The challenge continues to be eligibility to take the vaccination. If you do not have underlying health conditions or are not old enough, you cannot take the vaccine, even if it is available. Not meeting the age limit remains the greatest challenge for most military families.
However, good news for military families is just around the corner. Due to vaccine availability, most states are rapidly dropping the age limit. After placing the initial age limit at 65 or over in most states, the current age limit is around 50. Many states are now reporting the age limit for the vaccine will drop to 16 within just a few weeks. For example, Florida stated that all adults in the state, age 18 and older will be eligible for the vaccine beginning on Monday, April 5. The Pfizer vaccine has a lower age limit, due to testing methodology. Therefore, if you desire inoculation and are receiving the Pfizer vaccine, you are eligible at age 16 in Florida on April 5. Both Ohio and Minnesota have already begun inoculating all state citizens, ages 16 and up. It is believed that most states will open vaccination to recipients over the age of 16 during the next 30 days.
“Based on the projections that we have, both supply side and vaccination side, we do fully expect to be open to all … of our DOD eligible populations on or before the first of May,” Army Lt. Gen. Ronald J. Place, director of the Defense Health Agency said. “At current uptake rates for those who want to get it, we think by the middle of July or so … the department will be vaccinated.”
Stay abreast of your local news and watch for your vaccine locations, as your age group will be available soon.
“Vaccination is one critical part of getting our country back to normal, along with continued testing and adherence to public health measures like masking and social distancing,” Adirim said. “We just can’t let up at this point. Our DOD personnel have done a phenomenal job. I’m very proud of all of them. We’ve administered more than 1.8 million shots within DOD and more than 5 million shots have gone into arms by military service members in support of the FEMA mission.”