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

“Shots in arms” – OPT planned & coordinated to meet COVID-19 mission

Image of Military personnel sitting around a table talking. Click to open a larger version of the image. Members of the Department of Defense’s COVID-19 Operational Planning Team meet at Defense Health Agency Headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia, May 18 (Photo by: Mark Oswell, MHS Communication).

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus

On May 24, the Department of Defense’s COVID-19 Operational Planning Team (OPT) transitioned its mission to the Coronavirus Vaccine Immunization Program (CVIP) working group.

The OPT was established last November by the Secretary of Defense and given the authority to oversee the Department of Defense's COVID-19 vaccination operations.

Under the direction of Defense Health Agency Director, Army Lt. Gen (Dr.) Ronald Place; and leadership of Army Maj. Gen. (Dr.) George "Ned" Appenzeller, DHA’s assistant director for combat support, the OPT brought together a diverse team of nearly 85 representatives from across the DOD to develop and execute the complex plan to safely and efficiently administer COVID-19 vaccines to the DOD's globally dispersed population.

The team consisted of representatives from the DHA, service branches, National Guard Bureau, Coast Guard, Joint Staff Surgeon’s Office, combatant commands, Defense Logistics Agency, and U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency - Distribution Operations Center, and worked closely with the Countermeasures Acceleration Group (previously known as Operation Warp Speed), the DOD COVID-19 Task Force, the Department of Health And Human Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The OPT focused on four priorities:

  • Protect service members
  • Protect DOD civilians and their families
  • Safeguard national security capabilities
  • Support a whole-of-nation response to the COVID-19 pandemic

From those orders, the team went to work; spending long days, nights, and weekends to formulate the COVID-19 vaccination plan for the DOD. This plan eventually grew to 512 pages consisting of 15 modifications and over 30 appendices.

"Once we got those priorities, the DOD basically said, "The OPT is responsible to support the whole-of-nation response to receive, distribute and administer COVID-19 vaccines,'" explained Air Force Col. Jennifer Garrison, OPT team leader.

Military personnel posing for a picture
Members of the Department of Defense’s COVID-19 Operational Planning Team pose with Defense Health Agency Director Army Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Ronald J. Place (fourth from right), and Maj. Gen. (Dr.) George “Ned” Appenzeller, DHA Combat Support assistant director (far left) at Defense Health Agency Headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia, May 18 (Photo by: Mark Oswell, MHS Communication)

Under Garrison's leadership, the OPT set-up 10 working groups, including the Services and Combatant Commands Synchronization Working Group, Vaccine Board, Allocations and Apportionment Board, Information Technology Working Group, Logistics Working Group, Joint Planning Group, Transition Working Group and others to execute this complex operational mission for the Secretary of Defense. The OPT also provided daily vaccine operations briefs to the COVID Task Force, DOD leadership, services, the Joint Staff and Combatant Commands to ensure smooth operations and strategic communications for successful mission accomplishment to all DOD eligible personnel.

Through the working groups, the OPT developed a multi-phased approach that began with planning and then transitioned to a pilot phase when vaccines became available under Emergency Use Authorization in early December.

"After planning, we went through a pilot phase, where we tested our ability to distribute the vaccines to 16 pilot sites, 12 inside the United States and four overseas," explained Garrison. "In conjunction with DOD leadership, the Joint Staff, Health Affairs, HHS and the CDC, we also conducted a vaccine distribution table top exercise to prove our concept for vaccine distribution and discover gaps within the plan. After the pilot and exercise, we were very confident in our ability to safely provide vaccines to our worldwide population."

The "expanded distribution" phase which lasted from January to May, began after the first 16 DOD vaccination pilot sites had been issued vaccine, and distribution, storage, administration, and reporting processes were validated. During this phase the OPT developed a process to equally and proportionally allocate the limited supply of vaccine to all the DOD populations, first by using a pro-rata based upon numbers of service members in the DOD population tiers, and later, pro-rata by the number of DOD eligible persons in geographic locations surrounding the DOD vaccination sites. In May 2021, as the amount of vaccine increased, the plan transitioned to the "saturation" phase.

"In this phase, DHA gave the responsibility over to the military services to place their vaccine orders based upon their demand," Garrison said.

The "saturation" phase closely resembled standard vaccine procedures in terms of requisition, distribution and allocation.

Air Force Col. (Dr.) Tonya Rans, medical lead for the OPT and team lead for the CVIP working group, explained how a vaccination ultimately results in a stronger, more medically ready force.

"Although the preventative practices the DOD instituted – masks, physical distancing, etc. – worked very well in keeping our population safe, its benefits stopped if there were lapses in practice. Offering an FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine, where initial and ongoing studies continue to demonstrate its safety and efficacy, provides longer protection," Rans said. "Those that have been vaccinated can now feel more comfortable that they will remain healthy from the COVID-19 disease while in environments where it is difficult to maintain other preventative measures."

Garrison expounded upon how proud she was with what the OPT was able to accomplish: "Aside from accomplishing the secretary of defense's priorities, they were also able to deliver the required amount of the vaccine to the various combatant commands, and as support the Military Health System in administering vaccines to the 12- to 17-year-old age group, she added.

The transition from the OPT to the CVIP working group signifies the successful development and implementation of the DOD's vaccination plan, but not the completion of the mission. Garrison explained how the mission of the OPT, and now the CVIP working group, always was and continues to be to get, "shots in arms as safely and quickly as possible."

She also articulated how none of this would have been possible without an inter-service effort and the personnel in the field. "We couldn't have done this without the Joint Staff, the services and the combatant commands supporting us in ensuring that all eligible DOD populations were getting the vaccine as fast as we could get it to them," said Garrison.

"The success of the DOD COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Operation led by Lt. Gen. Place truly shows the value of the Defense Health Agency in its role as an operational combat support agency," concluded Garrison. "This endeavor highlights DHA's ability to bring together a successful and effective team and work with the services to support the needs of the Combatant Commands, and other DOD agencies and field activities."

You also may be interested in...

Future of Nursing: Telehealth, More Innovation and Maybe Some Robots

Article
5/13/2022
Second Lt. Nina Hoskins, 81st Surgical Operations Squadron operating room nurse, briefs Col. Debra Lovette, 81st Training Wing commander, and other base leadership on robotics surgery capabilities inside the robotics surgery clinic at the Keesler Medical Center June 16, 2017. (Photo: Kemberly Groue, U.S. Air Force)

The future of nursing is here due in part to changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recommended Content:

Nursing in the Military Health System | Coronavirus

How One Military Nurse Persevered Through the COVID-19 Response

Article
5/5/2022
Air Force Capt. Courtney Ebeling, a medical-surgical nurse at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Family Health Clinic, Texas, was deployed to support the COVID-19 response in Afghanistan in 2021. They administered vaccinations to U.S. citizens, service members, and foreign military members as well as supported the preparation to withdraw from the country. (Photo: Courtesy of Air Force Capt. Courtney Ebeling)

Nurses across the Military Health System have played a vital role in providing routine patient care and meeting the needs of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recommended Content:

Nurses Week Toolkit: United In Service, Rooted in Strength | Coronavirus | Nursing in the Military Health System

‘I Love the Intensity’ – One Nurse Recalls Three COVID-19 Deployments

Article
5/5/2022
In 2020, Air Force 1st Lt. Tiffany Parra, an ICU nurse at the 633rd Medical Group, on Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, was deployed to a North Dakota hospital to support a FEMA COVID-19 mission. In the photo, she trains on equipment used for critical patients in a North Dakota ICU. (Photo: Courtesy of Air Force 1st Lt. Tiffany Parra)

Nurses are unique, they follow a calling to care for others. Military nurses do that as well as serve their nation. For Nurses Week, the MHS highlights some of their own.

Recommended Content:

Nurses Week Toolkit: United In Service, Rooted in Strength | Nursing in the Military Health System | Coronavirus

Pandemic Spotlights the Vital Role of Military Lab Workers

Article
5/2/2022
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ashley Solomon, 18th Medical Support Squadron NCO in charge of microbiology, unloads blood samples from a centrifuge at Kadena Air Base, Japan, Jan. 31, 2019. (Photo: Tech. Sgt. Matthew B. Fredericks, U.S. Air Force)

MHS clinical labs produce results.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus

Helping Your Child to Cope with Grief and Losses Related to COVID-19

Article
4/28/2022
Shirley Lanham Elementary School students perform Taiko drumming during a Month of the Military Child celebration aboard the Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan, April 6, 2022. (Photo: Petty Officer 2nd Class Ange-Olivier Clement, Naval Air Facility Atsugi)

Many military children have lost loved ones to COVID-19. How parents can help with the grief.

Recommended Content:

Month of the Military Child - Celebrating Military Kids | Children's Health | Psychological Fitness | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus

How to Help Military Children Reconnect After Two Years of the Pandemic

Article
4/25/2022
Airman 1st Class Rocio Romo, Space Launch Delta 30 public affairs specialist, and her son pose for a photo at Cocheo Park on Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, March 25, 2022. During the month of April, we celebrate Month of the Military Child to highlight the sacrifices military children make on the home front while their parents serve the United States. (Photo: Airman Kadielle Shaw, Space Launch Delta 30 Public Affairs)

How parents can help children stressed by more than two years of COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Month of the Military Child - Celebrating Military Kids | Children's Health | Psychological Fitness | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus

COVID-19 Testing and Treatment Graphic 2

Infographic
4/21/2022
COVID-19 Testing and Treatment Graphic 2

If your military hospital or clinic offers these antiviral treatments as part of the COVID-19 Test to Treat Initiative, use these graphics to promote your services to your beneficiaries.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | COVID-19 Treatment

COVID-19 Testing and Treatment Main Graphic

Infographic
4/21/2022
COVID-19 Testing and Treatment Main Graphic

If your military hospital or clinic offers these antiviral treatments as part of the COVID-19 Test to Treat Initiative, use these graphics to promote your services to your beneficiaries.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | COVID-19 Treatment

COVID-19 Booster Effectiveness Remained High During Omicron Surge

Article
4/18/2022
Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Mary Ashcraft, assigned to the combat ship USS Tulsa, administers a COVID-19 vaccine booster to Aviation Machinist Mate 1st Class Anthony Johnson Jan. 10, 2022, at Apra Harbor, Guam. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Petty Officer 1st Class Devin M. Langer, Command Destroyer Squadron 7)

Two new studies of active-duty service members show COVID-19 booster vaccines are effective, but uptake rates in the military community lagged behind the civilian population.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Got Your 6 | April 16, 2022

Video
4/15/2022
Got Your 6 | April 16, 2022

‘Got Your 6’ is TRICARE’s COVID vaccine video series that delivers important information and updates, on days that end in ‘6.’ It includes the latest information about DOD vaccine distribution, the TRICARE health benefit, and vaccine availability. Got a question about ‘Got Your 6’? Send an email to dha.ncr.comm.mbx.dha-internal-communications@mail.mil Find your local military provider at tricare.mil/MTF, or go to tricare.mil/vaccineappointments and schedule yours today!

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

8 Tips to Help Kids Adjust to Change during the New Pandemic Phase

Article
4/15/2022
A parent comforts his child while she receives a pediatric dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at Kadena Air Base, Japan, Jan. 28, 2022. (Photo: Airman 1st Class Anna Nolte, 18th Wing Public Affairs)

Parents should prepare their kids for the new normal of the ongoing pandemic, recognizing that the status of the disease can change quickly as new variants of COVID-19 emerge.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus | Children's Health

Military Medical Officials Back FY 23 Budget Before Senate Appropriations Committee

Article
4/6/2022
Marines with Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing take precautionary measures by cleaning and disinfecting their hands during field day on Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., March 20, 2020, to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 while continuing to perform mission-essential tasks. (Photo: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jaime Reyes)

Military Medical officials, including Army Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Ronald J. Place, Defense Health Agency director, back FY 23 Budget before the Senate Appropriations Committee, March 29, 2022.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Coronavirus

How COVID-19 Made the Military Medical Community Stronger

Article
3/21/2022
Image of a service member being treated

Lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic has made the military medical community stronger and will help when confronting the next crisis, whether that’s another pandemic, a new conflict or natural disaster

Recommended Content:

Combat Support | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus

COVID-19 Responses Underscore Importance of Patient Safety

Article
3/14/2022
Every day, patient safety is one of the top priorities for the Defense Health Agency. Patient safety means providing ready, reliable care to service members, veterans, and dependents no matter the circumstances. (Photo: Defense Health Agency)

Patient safety is a topmost concern of MHS, and Patient Safety Awareness Week 2022 focuses on Ready, Reliable Care.

Recommended Content:

Patient Safety | Patient Safety Awareness Week | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus | Patient Safety Awareness Week

Answering Your Questions About COVID-19 Testing

Article
2/25/2022
Military personnel performing a COVID-19 Test

COVID-19 continues to spread, now as the Omicron variant. Getting vaccinated is the most effective way to protect you and your family from getting seriously ill, getting hospitalized, or dying. You should also make sure you’re up to date with your vaccines. Testing is another important step you can take to protect yourself and others.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus | At-Home COVID-19 Tests
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 40

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.