Military medical personnel likely will not be administering any COVID-19 vaccine to the public, once it becomes available, according to the Pentagon. However, the armed forces are committed to providing logistical support for its distribution.
In an Oct 24 announcement the Pentagon outlined details of the armed forces’ role in efforts to control the resurgent virus, which has killed over 228,000 Americans with nearly nine million confirmed infections to date.
“We have the best logisticians in the world at the Department of Defense, working in conjunction with the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], to guide … every logistical detail you could possibly think of,” said Paul Mango, policy chief at the Department of Health and Human Services.
“The overwhelming majority of Americans will get a vaccine that no federal employee, including the Department of Defense, has touched,” Mango said.
Army Gen. Gustave F. Perna heads Operation Warp Speed, the federal government’s multi-agency COVID-19 mitigation effort. In this capacity, he would oversee operations centers akin to those set up during hurricane relief efforts, Mango said. Military medical personnel would assist in providing needles, syringes, swabs, adhesive bandages, dry ice and trucks from the centers, which would be operational 24 hours a day.
Dr. Matt Hepburn, who is in charge of Operation Warp Speed vaccine efforts, said that six possible vaccines are now being evaluated in clinical trials. He anticipates that once large-scale trials begin, they would involve 30,000 patients.