Fedweek

An inspector general audit has identified lessons learned in the Coronavirus pandemic for DoD to apply in any future pandemic, including difficulties it experienced in providing vaccines to its civilian and military personnel and the reasons some of them resisted taking them.

It said that when DoD launched its voluntary in-house vaccination program last spring, it “did not have reliable data” on which to base decisions of how to allocate the available doses among its military treatment facilities, or MTFs. Those facilities “experienced challenges identifying their vaccine-eligible population” and how many were in each tier of eligibility, and in some cases did not coordinate with each other in moving from one tier to the next, it said.

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Further, problems with record-keeping and data reporting of vaccinations that were administered left officials unable to determine “if they effectively administered the COVID-19 vaccine to the DoD workforce,” it said. It added that in a survey it conducted at the time, two-thirds of the 27,000 respondents—more than half of them civilians, the rest military—did not know which tier applied to them.

That survey—conducted before the separate vaccination mandates for military and federal personnel, the latter of which recently was blocked by a court injunction—also asked respondents to choose one or more from a list of possible reasons they were or were not vaccinated.

Those who were vaccinated overwhelmingly cited wanting to protect themselves and those around them and desire to return to a normal lifestyle. Of those not vaccinated, by far the most commonly cited concerns involved the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness and potential side effects. Opposition to vaccination due to religious reasons or based on advice of a health care provider—the two allowable grounds for exceptions under the mandates—were among the least-cited reasons.

Said the report, “The DoD must address the difficulties encountered with determining MTFs’ vaccine-eligible populations and reporting vaccine administration data when planning future responses to pandemics and mass vaccination efforts. In addition, the DoD should address the challenges encountered with implementing the vaccination schema and the unique challenges encountered at overseas locations.

It also said the department should take away lessons from the survey including the desire of respondents for “more facts and education, consistent and clear messaging, incentivizing vaccination, and more personalized communication and alternative communication methods” as well as “pointedly addressing misinformation.”

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