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DOD recommends adults 75 and older should seek COVID-19 vaccine

Image of nursing home members, wearing masks, waiting in a line to get their COVID vaccine. Click to open a larger version of the image. Armed Forces Retirement Home residents line up to receive their COVID-19 vaccine. The Department of Defense recommends that adults ages 75 and older should now receive a COVID-19 vaccine as part of its official Vaccination Program across the United States. The DoD and the Military Health System is encouraging all beneficiaries in that age group to access vaccines through their closest military medical treatment facility. (Photo by Carolyn Haug, Armed Forces Retirement Home.)

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The Department of Defense recommends that adults ages 75 and older should now receive a COVID-19 vaccine as part of its official Vaccination Program across the United States. The DOD and the Military Health System is encouraging all beneficiaries in that age group to access vaccines through their closest military medical treatment facility (MTF).

Each MTF will determine local processes, and whether appointments are required or walk-ins are accepted. Vaccine availability may vary by location, but beneficiaries will be notified when and where the vaccine becomes available to them. There are more than 1.1 million beneficiaries in the TRICARE For LifeMedicare-wraparound coverage for TRICARE-eligible beneficiaires who have both Medicare Part A and B.TRICARE for Life (TFL) health plan who need to be aware of this critical recommendation.

This age recommendation differs slightly from that of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends vaccinations for those 65 and older.

Health personnel gives elderly gentleman a shot in his left arm
Armed Forces Retirement Home resident and WWII veteran Rafael Lopez, 93, prepares to receive one of the first COVID-19 vaccines administered at AFRH on Monday, December 21, 2020. (Photo by Carolyn Haug, Armed Forces Retirement Home.)

“All older adults are at greater risk for becoming critically ill if they are infected with SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19. DOD is eager to reach out to this beneficiary population—including those not enrolled at an MTF—and let them know that it’s his or her turn if they so choose,” said Air Force Colonel Tonya Rans, Defense Health Agency’s Chief of the Immunization Healthcare Division. “Offering these safe and effective vaccines through DOD provides another option to those who may not yet have access through their civilian provider or pharmacy.”

There are currently two authorized COVID-19 vaccines in the United States, and each requires two doses to be fully effective. Risk for severe illness with COVID-19 increases with age, with older adults at highest risk, and adults 75 and older are at up to eight times higher risk of hospitalization from COVID-19 infection than younger, healthy adults. Further, all COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the United States have been shown to be highly effective at preventing the disease.

Additionally, second-dose reminders are critical to achieve optimal vaccine effectiveness. Arrangements for scheduling a second dose and setting a reminder can be made while you are getting your first dose. Importantly, vaccines are NOT interchangeable and a vaccine recipient’s second dose must be from the same manufacturer as the first dose.

A reminder to beneficiaries and other personnel: Getting vaccinated yourself may also protect people around you, particularly people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. But even if you have been vaccinated, other COVID-19 safety precautions like masks, social distancing and frequent handwashing should remain in effect until experts better understand the extent of protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide.

Answers to frequently asked questions can be found on this TRICARE page; and at the CDC website. For more COVID-19 information check the Health.mil website. When misleading information circulates, vaccination coverage can fall and increase the risk for outbreaks.

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