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

DOD COVID-19 vaccine roll-out continues, eye on long-term readiness

Soldier getting a vaccine in his left arm Marines with the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccination shot on Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan on Jan. 20. Receiving the vaccine mitigates risks to military operations, allowing Marines to maintain their readiness and be able to respond to any crisis or contingency in the Indo-Pacific region. (Photo by Marine Cpl. Sarah Marshall, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade.)

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | MHS Toolkits and Branding Guidance | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

Moving hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 vaccines to more than 300 military bases at home and abroad is a monumental task, especially when the supply of the vaccines is still in the early stage. Perhaps more significant is the psychological impact of waiting to get a shot, understanding the facts about its safety, and wading through the daily barrage of media reports and a formidable rumor mill amid the deadliest virus to hit the United States in more than a century.

While the news has celebrated the current vaccines for being 95% or more effective to prevent illness from the virus, they remain among of the most important prevention methods to combatting the spread of COVID-19.

At a Pentagon press briefing Jan. 28, Joint Staff Surgeon Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul Friedrichs described the vaccine as a third layer of prevention against the disease, emphasizing that the shot, combined with public health measures and testing, will help control the pandemic.

He said the basic personal protection measures of physical distancing and wearing face coverings and masks are “not going to go away in the near term as we roll out the vaccines.”

That’s because research has not yet provided answers to key questions about how widely the vaccine can prevent the spread of the virus. “That’s difficult, [to know] the immediate assessment on the impact on readiness and training and operations,” said Air Force Col. (Dr.) Jessica Cowden, chief of infectious disease programs with the Defense Institute for Medical Operations, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas.

Image of several boxes of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines
Boxes of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are placed into a freezer at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Jan. 7, 2021. Each box holds 10 vials, with each vial containing approximately 10 doses of the vaccine. (Photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. K. Tucker Owen.)

“The phase 3 vaccine trial is designed to evaluate efficacy — how well the vaccines work to prevent clinical infection, systematic COVID. They are not designed to evaluate the vaccine’s ability to prevent an asymptomatic infection, or transmission. So those questions are still there, and still unanswered.”

Cowden, who has been on assignment with the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense (JPEO-CBRND) and is coordinating participation in the Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine studies, was referring to one of many challenging aspects of COVID-19 — the way in which it can easily spread from infected people who show no symptoms. It’s why even with the high efficacy of the shots, mask-wearing, physical distancing, and quarantining must continue for the foreseeable future, she stressed.

Like any medication or vaccination, it's normal to wonder about the safety of what's going into your body, and defense health experts express high levels of confidence in the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“On one level, it’s amazingly fast,” said Dr. Clay Holloway, director of the Office of Strategy and Integration at JPEO CBRND, where part of the office’s charge is “medical countermeasures” for the military and special operations. “On another level, it’s unfair to say that this is all the time that’s been put into it, because we’ve spent quite a while developing the messenger RNA platform, and understanding what it can do, what it can’t do. But there are limits to how much you can profile the safety. You’ve really got to get whatever it is you’re vaccinating against, and see how that interacts with the body and whether it’s effective or not.”

In other words, the mRNA vaccine has been around for a few years now, but the COVID-19 trials are the first real test of the impact of it. The testing was unprecedented, experts agree.

“It did take the whole nationwide effort, the whole of government, the whole of industry effort to bring these forward this fast,” Holloway said, adding that “the Food and Drug Administration does its job incredibly well. When you take a drug from them ... you can be pretty confident it’s going to work.”

He added how the COVID-19 trials were accelerated by doing a lot of things in parallel instead of in a series of steps, much different from the normal method. It means looking at the same number of people tested and generating the same amount of data.

“But again, that’s not normal, because we don’t normally have the entire nation’s resources all focused on one problem,” he said. “This was unique.”

Medical personnel giving a vaccine
Navy Hospitalman Jaylen King, assigned to Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command Corpus Christi, administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to a patient at U.S. Coast Guard Sector Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas. NMRTC-CC is following the DOD’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan to implement a phased strategy to administer the vaccine to protect our fighting force and maintain readiness. (Photo by Dale Davis, Naval Health Clinic Corpus Christi, Texas.)

There are many other unknowns. How long can the vaccines live in the freezer? What about efficacy against new variants of the virus? When does the nation get to the point where enough people become immune to prevent the spread? Will you have immunity for life? Answers remains elusive, but waiting on every implication of a new vaccine is not what “emergency use authorization” is all about.

“We do know that it takes that second shot, or single booster [three or four weeks after the first], to get really good initial efficacy,” Cowden said. “We’ll have to see how long you keep that immunity, and that’s fairly common for different vaccines.”

With most vaccines, the idea is that you don’t get perfect protection forever, but good enough protection to keep you from becoming ill for a period, the doctors said. Take the new Shingrix vaccine, approved in 2017 to treat shingles, a painful, blistering illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that healthy adults 50 and older get two doses separated by two to six months. In studies, Shingrix was more than 97% effective, and as of late 2019, protection stayed above 85% effectiveness at four years after vaccinations. Testing will continue, as with all vaccines.

Likewise, the COVID-19 vaccine needs to be tracked over time, Holloway said, to see how long the vaccinated “keep their antibodies up.” It could be that the virus needs an annual inoculation, like for seasonal influenza, but it is too early to tell. Those getting the vaccine now will not have to go back for testing, but should simply stay up to date on vaccine news to know whether they need to be re-vaccinated.

As far as the physical impact of the shots, or side effects, some people have none. Some get a sore arm. Some get headaches, or a fever. A very small number get a bad allergic reaction, but it is one that is usually seen within 15 or 20 minutes. Just like with giving blood, you are asked to stick around for a while after getting the relatively painless jab.

Despite the many articles and constant stream of information about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines and the means of slowing the virus, the anti-vaccine sentiment remains stubborn, and is impacting efforts at effective messaging.

Recently, for example, there were many negative comments on the TRICARE Facebook page when facts on the vaccine were presented. Beneficiaries shared that they were unwilling to get a COVID-19 vaccine without knowing the long-term side effects, or that they think the vaccine is a bigger risk than COVID-19 itself (you cannot acquire COVID from the vaccines). Experts caution to be wary about unproven theories via the so-called “rumor mill,” and seek credible information.

“COVID-19 vaccines are brand new products, in a pandemic-weary world that is flooded with social media information,” said Dr. Margaret Ryan, medical director of the Defense Health Agency’s Immunization Healthcare Division. “This environment may engender much misinformation. People should be encouraged to seek reliable information from universities, the Centers for Disease Control, the FDA, and DOD — especially the DHA Immunization Healthcare Division website.”

Ryan said that though it is not mandatory for military members, she encourages everyone to be vaccinated as soon as it is offered to them.

“People should feel confident in these highly effective vaccines that have reassuring safety profiles after millions of doses have been administered,” she said. “Receiving COVID-19 vaccination reduces one’s personal risk of infection, protects other people, and helps the world to eventually emerge from the pandemic.”

You also may be interested in...

The Delta Variant: A New Reason to Get Vaccinated

Video
6/25/2021
COVID-19 infographic

Are you a service member age 18 to 30? Are you unvaccinated? You may be entitled to severe disease, hospitalization, and death. To avoid these options, get vaccinated today!

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Delta Variant

Got Your 6: June 26, 2021

Video
6/25/2021
Got Your 6 Infographic

‘Got Your 6’ is TRICARE’s COVID vaccine video series that delivers important information and updates, three times a month. It includes the latest information about DoD vaccine distribution, the TRICARE health benefit, and vaccine availability.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Delta Variant

COVID-19: Get Your Second Shot

Infographic
6/22/2021
Get Your Second Shot! You're not fully vaccinated - or protected - until you receive your second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

You're not fully vaccinated - or protected - until two weeks after getting your second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Got Your 6 - June 16, 2021

Video
6/16/2021

‘Got Your 6’ is TRICARE’s COVID vaccine video series that delivers important information and updates, three times a month. It includes the latest information about DoD vaccine distribution, the TRICARE health benefit, and vaccine availability.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

COVID-19 Vaccines Safety Monitoring

Infographic
6/9/2021
Graphic that assures beneficiaries that the COVID-19 vaccines are monitored for safety. Has information on how they are being reviewed. Graphics include doctors in a laboratory and a doctor with a shield fending off the virus. The MHS and TRICARE logos are on the bottom right.

Graphic that assures beneficiaries that the COVID-19 vaccines are monitored for safety. Has information on how they are being reviewed. Graphics include doctors in a laboratory and a doctor with a shield fending off the virus.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines - Main Infographic

Infographic
6/9/2021
An infographic describing the COVID-19 Vaccines, How they Work and Safety Monitoring Processes

This infographic pulls all three COVID-19 topics together in one graphic: Getting to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines, How they Work and Safety Monitoring

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

How COVID-19 Vaccines Work

Infographic
6/9/2021
Describes how the mRNA and viral vector vaccines work to educate beneficiaries about the COVID-19 vaccines.

This graphic showing how the mRNA and viral vector vaccines work to educate beneficiaries about the COVID-19 vaccines. Graphics are informational and provide facts on how they work in our bodies.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines

Infographic
6/9/2021
Assures beneficiaries that the COVID-19 vaccines will not give you the virus, does not affect our DNA, and is safe.

This graphic that assures beneficiaries that the vaccines will not give you the virus, does not affect our DNA, and is safe. Graphics include a person receiving the vaccine and a comparison graphic of COVID-19 trials versus other trials.

Recommended Content:

Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

VAX Facts about Getting the COVID Vaccine at the Same Time as Others

Publication
6/9/2021

Printable PDF of VAX Fact Infographic

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vax Facts

Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines (Combined)

Publication
6/9/2021

The Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccines were developed to prevent infection from the virus that causes COVID-19. Learn about the vaccines, how they work and safety precautions.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines

Publication
6/9/2021

The Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccines were developed to prevent infection from the virus that causes COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

How COVID-19 Vaccines Work

Publication
6/9/2021

Learn how the different COVID-19 vaccines work.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Monitoring

Publication
6/9/2021

The FDA and CDC continue to monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines. CDC has an independent group of experts that reviews all the safety data as it comes in and provides regular safety updates.

Recommended Content:

Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

Got Your 6 - June 6, 2021

Video
6/7/2021
Video screen image for the June 6, 2021 Got Your Six video

"Got Your 6" is TRICARE's COVID-19 vaccine video series that delivers important information and updates, three times a month. It includes the latest information about DoD vaccine distribution, the TRICARE health benefit, and vaccine availability for a DoD-affiliated, and TRICARE beneficiary audience.

Recommended Content:

MHS Toolkits and Branding Guidance | MHS Toolkits and Branding Guidance | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

Facemask Required

Infographic
6/4/2021
COVID-19 poster showing doctors and patients in a health care setting wearing masks. The sign reads, "Masks are required in health care settings even if you're fully vaccinated. Please make sure your mask is on."

While the CDC relaxed mask requirements for vaccinated people, you're still required to wear masks in health care settings. Print this poster and put it around your facility to let patients and visitors know the requirements.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Prevent COVID-19
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 46 - 60 Page 4 of 45

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.