DoD Senior Officials, Health Care Workers Could Be First Among Group to Get COVID Vaccine

Health care workers in the U.S. military, along with a select group of Department of Defense (DoD) leaders, could be recipients of the Armed Forces' first round of COVID-19 vaccine, according to officials at a Wednesday press conference.

The DoD is expecting to receive approximately 44,000 doses of a coronavirus vaccine manufactured by Pfizer, which requires two doses for effectiveness, as soon as the vaccine is cleared for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. After that, the vaccine must be recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a panel that works with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Thomas McCaffery said Wednesday that distribution of the vaccine to members of the DoD would begin shortly thereafter.

"We expect to have shots in arms of DoD personnel within 20 to 48 hours from the time the ACIP issues its final recommendation," McCaffery said.

Military health care workers and first responders are expected to be in the first round of vaccinations, as are certain members of DoD leadership. On the proposed vaccination list are Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley, acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Christopher C. Miller and Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist. During the Wednesday briefing, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said that vaccinating the senior officials, which may take place in a public forum, was necessary to emphasize the importance of receiving the vaccine to other members of the armed forces.

Newsweek reached out to the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff for comment.

thomas mccaffery announces military COVID vaccine plan
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Thomas McCaffery announced on Wednesday the U.S. Department of Defense's initial plans for administering a COVID-19 vaccine, Drew Angerer/Getty

Vaccination against COVID-19 is not expected to be mandatory. More members of the military will be eligible to receive the vaccine as more doses become available.

"Future allocations of the COVID-19 vaccine will focus on vaccinating priority populations quickly and safely," McCaffery said, "while simultaneously refining the intricate planning for the delivery of larger volumes of vaccine in future waves."

According to Wednesday data from the DoD, the U.S. Army has reported the highest number of positive cases of COVID-19 with 31,486 individuals diagnosed with the virus. The U.S. Navy has reported 18,492 positive cases while the Air Force has reported 16,084 positive COVID-19 cases. Both the Marine Corps and the National Guard have reported over 10,000 cases of the coronavirus.

During a press briefing about the vaccines on Tuesday, President Donald Trump indicated that "tens of millions of vaccine doses" could be available to some members of the general American population in December.

Trump said that the decision surrounding who would receive the vaccines in the first round rested in the hands of state governments, he urged state governors to "put America's seniors first, and also, I think those who work with seniors, which obviously you're going to have to do that. I think they have to go together. And doctors, nurses, first responders, et cetera."