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DOD surpasses 2 million COVID-19 vaccines worldwide

Military health personnel wearing a face mask and a face shield giving the COVID-19 vaccine Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Darrin Bostater, of Submarine Squadron 16, based at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia, receives a COVID-19 vaccine in late January (Photo by: Deidre Smith, Naval Hospital Jacksonville).

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The Department of Defense has now administered more than 2 million COVID-19 vaccinations to more than 1.3 million service members and beneficiaries, just a month after hitting the 1 million mark.

Army Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Ronald Place, director of the Defense Health Agency (DHA), said the 2 million milestone is an achievement to be proud of, and said the military must continue to focus on administering the vaccines that are received and communicating vaccine availability to those eligible.

"Reaching 2 million doses is a remarkable milestone," Place said. "More importantly, 24 percent of the military force is fully immunized - an achievement which directly improves our nation's health and our military readiness. Looking ahead, DHA will remain focused on the vaccine program to ensure we reach all of our eligible beneficiaries as quickly as possible."

As of April 8, the DoD has administered 2.3 million doses, with more than 900,000 fully vaccinated. About 83% of the vaccines received had been administered, which is above the U.S. national average of 77%.

Army Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Gragg, the senior enlisted leader of the DHA, said that along with an exceptional logistical chain, there has been widespread acceptance of the shots up and down the ranks.

"Through the education of our service members and our leadership, willing to step forward and accept the vaccine, it really allowed us to reach that mark so extremely fast," Gragg said. "The fact that these individuals, all of them, have volunteered to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies both foreign and domestic, it also comes to bear that they have realized and they understand that the enemy right now is COVID."

Still, the new milestone came as new cases of COVID-19 among all Americans have surged in large portions of the country, and deaths approached 550,000. But Gragg said that Military Health System professionals on the front lines, from medical augmentation teams to the vaccine shot teams mobilized to support civilian communities, have been doing nothing less than defending the nation. And that includes non-medical troops simply willing to walk into a tent and roll up their sleeve for a jab, he added.

"That is more of a testament to these individuals than people realize," Gragg said. "The fact that a generally younger and healthier population is stepping up and taking the vaccine when they aren't the ones being as adversely affected by the virus, itself further supports and highlights that they are stepping forward to not necessarily protect themselves, but to protect their fellow Americans. It is about protecting people you care about - your neighbor, grandparents, your friends, your community - that's what it is about."

According to Air Force Col. Jennifer Garrison, the DOD's operational planning team lead for its COVID-19 vaccination program, "The DOD is marching forward to administer vaccines we receive on a weekly basis. We are so grateful to our leaders, providers, and community partners for their efforts of getting shots into arms as quickly as possible."

Said Gragg: "I look forward to the day when we don't have this milestone to celebrate and our population is totally protected, and COVID is in our rear-view mirror or something that is controlled because we've all done the right thing."

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