Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Amid COVID-19, seasonal influenza still a threat to force readiness

Hospital Corpsman administers a flu shot to a navy officer. The flu shot helps DoD members maintain both mission readiness and wellness. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Marc Cuenca/Released)

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Influenza Summary and Reports | Immunization Healthcare | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases | Influenza, Southern Hemisphere

The COVID-19 pandemic has emerged as the most significant public health emergency in this century. As individuals around the globe race for treatment options and take preventive measures against COVID-19, those living in the Southern Hemisphere are also preparing for another virus – seasonal influenza. The flu typically takes hold from April through September in the Southern Hemisphere and impacts service members and their beneficiaries on military orders in places south of the equator, such as New Zealand, Australia, southern parts of Africa and South America as well as Indonesia.

Before 2020, a Federal Drug Administration-approved Southern Hemisphere influenza vaccine was not available for military personnel or beneficiaries. Service members received the Northern Hemisphere flu vaccine during the Northern Hemisphere season, which runs October to March.

Once the FDA approved a Southern Hemisphere influenza vaccine, the combatant commands quickly engaged with the Office of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs’ Health Readiness Policy and Oversight and Defense Health Agency to get access for their personnel.

Through joint efforts by the CCMDs, Defense Logistics Agency, U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency, and DHA’s Immunization Healthcare Division, service members and their beneficiaries in the Southern Hemisphere can access the FDA-approved, U.S.-labeled Southern Hemisphere vaccine Fluzone®.

“The vaccination will be made available at designated medical treatment facilities in May 2020,” according to Tara Reavey, chief of policy and program management for DHA's Immunization Healthcare Division.

Access to both Northern and Southern hemisphere influenza vaccines supports troop readiness since different flu strains circulate in each hemisphere. “Symptoms of the Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere seasonal influenzas are similar,” said Dr. Jay Montgomery, medical director of the Immunization Healthcare Division’s North Atlantic Region Vaccine Safety Hub. “Typical flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, and muscle aches, but in severe cases may result in hospitalization or death.”

However, Montgomery added, “the common strains identified in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere differ about 60% of the time.” He said the challenge to support force readiness became apparent as DoD members experienced flu-like symptoms when traveling to the Southern Hemisphere flu zone after receiving the Northern Hemisphere vaccine.

“Obviously if we don't have the right virus strains in the vaccine, people are not going to get protection against those strains,” said Montgomery. “Over the years, a substantial number of influenza-like illnesses have occurred among service members and other DoD personnel participating in multinational exercises, such as in Australia, every year,” he said, adding that a vaccine targeting Southern Hemisphere influenza should result in a decrease of influenza-like illnesses there.

The DHA-Interim Procedures Memorandum 20-002 for Southern Hemisphere influenza was published March 20 and “aligns with Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention recommendations to use the appropriate influenza vaccine,” said Reavey. Specifically, Southern Hemisphere influenza vaccination is required for all active duty, reserve component, National Guard members (and recommended for all other beneficiaries), permanently or temporarily assigned for at least 14 contiguous days between April 1 and Sept. 30 to an area designated as a Southern Hemisphere influenza zone by the World Health Organization.

U.S. government civilian employees and family members of personnel who are living in or conducting a permanent change of station to the Southern Hemisphere are authorized to receive the Southern Hemisphere vaccine. In order to develop adequate immunity, personnel traveling to the Southern Hemisphere between April and September should be vaccinated at least two weeks before they go to the region, if possible.

DoD personnel traveling to or residing in the Northern Hemisphere for at least 14 days between October and March and who have not received the current seasonal Northern Hemisphere influenza vaccine are required to receive a Northern Hemisphere vaccine in accordance with the most current DHA-IPM for the Northern Hemisphere seasonal influenza vaccination program.

The DHA-IPM states that individuals may receive vaccines for both the Northern Hemisphere flu and the Southern Hemisphere flu in a year span, but the immunizations will need to be given at least 28 days apart. Service members will not need to receive a flu vaccine for either hemisphere when traveling to the area during an offseason and if in the region for less than 14 days.

For more information on the Southern Hemisphere influenza vaccine, please visit the Military Health System Influenza webpage.

You also may be interested in...

DoD Instruction 6025.19: Individual Medical Readiness

Policy

This instruction implements policy, assigns responsibilities, and prescribes procedures to improve IMR in accordance with the authority in Reference (b). This implementation is in accordance with sections 1074a, 10149, and 10206 of Title 10, United States Code and DoDD 6200.04 (References (c) and (d), respectively)

Immunizations and Chemoprophylaxis for the Prevention of Infectious Diseases

Policy
  • Identification #: Army Regulation 40–562 BUMEDINST 6230.15B AFI 48–110_IP CG COMDTINST M6230.4G
  • Date: 10/7/2013
  • Type: Instructions
  • Topics: Immunization Healthcare

Guidance on Medications for Prophylaxis of Malaria 13-002

Policy

This document provides guidance and best practices for the chemoprophylaxis (use of medication to prevent malaria) of Service members serving in malaria endemic regions.

Civilian Employee Health and and Occupational Health Program

Policy

INTEGRATION OF MILITARY VACCINE AGENCY AND VACCINE HEALTHCARE CENTERS NETWORK

Policy

Clinical Policy for the Administration of the Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed

Policy

Department of Defense Guidance Regarding Thimerosal Containing Vaccines

Policy

This memo provides guidance regarding the use of vaccines containing Thimerosal.

DoD Instruction 6200.02: Application of FDA Rules to Department of Defense Force Health Protection Programs

Policy

This instruction updates policy and assigns responsibility for application of FDA rules to force health protection programs of the Department of Defense involving medical products required to be used under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) or an investigational new drug (IND) application.

Immunizations to Protect the Health of Service Members and Military Beneficiaries

Policy

Policy and Program for Immunizations to Protect the Health of Service Members and Military Beneficiaries

Vaccine Policy and Guidance for Adults and Accessions

Policy

Health, Safety and Work-Life Service Center Technical Directive 2014-012

Policy

Learning from Adverse Events After Vaccination

Policy

Reactions to Vaccines

Policy

Immunization of Other Than US Forces for Biological Warfare Defense

Policy

Immunization of Other Than U.S. Forces (OTUSF) for Biological Warfare Defense

Policy for Treatment of RC Members at Military MTFs for Health Care Related to an Immunization

Policy

Policy for Treatment of Reserve Component Members at Military Medical Treatment Facilities for Health Care Related to an Immunization

<< < 1 2 3 > >> 
Showing results 16 - 30 Page 2 of 3

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.