Skip to main content

Military Health System

Important Notice about Pharmacy Operations

Change Healthcare Cyberattack Impact on MHS Pharmacy Operations. Read the statement to learn more. 

Military Health System Marks 1-Year Anniversary for COVID Vaccinations

Image of Military Health System Marks 1-Year Anniversary for COVID Vaccinations . Military Health System Marks 1-Year Anniversary for COVID Vaccinations

One year ago today, on Dec. 14, 2020, the Military Health System began administering the first COVID-19 vaccine shots.

A year later, the MHS has distributed more than 6.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine and reports 90.1% of active duty service members are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with an additional 6.4% partially vaccinated.

“The DOD is committed to vaccinating 100% of all active duty service members to ensure maximized readiness to meet the warfighter needs,” said Air Force Col. Jennifer Garrison, deputy assistant director, Operational Medicine, Defense Health Agency (DHA).

Initial vaccinations in late 2020 targeted frontline health care workers who were most at risk of exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.

Looking Back

On Dec. 9, 2020, DOD announced its COVID-19  vaccination plan.

Immediately after the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine on Dec. 11, 2020, the Defense Department mobilized to distribute approximately 44,000 initial doses to 13 military communities.

Among the first medical treatment facilities to receive shipments were Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland; Naval Medical Center San Diego, California; and the Air Force's 59th Medical Wing in San Antonio, Texas.

Those first vaccinations marked the start of a phased and coordinated plan to prioritize, distribute, and administer COVID-19 vaccines to 11.3 million DOD-eligible personnel and beneficiaries.

Military health officials later added Moderna’s two-dose COVID-19 vaccine and the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen single-dose shot to the distribution list as they received FDA emergency use authorization.

By Feb. 22, 2021, the DOD had administered 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines. A month later, the total grew to 2 million doses.

The Rollout Plan

To facilitate the rollout, 17 DHA Immunization Health Division (IHD) specialists stationed throughout the MHS helped military vaccine sites to become experts in COVID-19 vaccination procedures.

“The early days of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout required tremendous time and hard work. But all of us were deeply committed to getting this right,” DHA IHD specialist David Cortez said.

“Maintaining vaccine confidence in anxious patients compels us to handle and manage these vaccines absolutely correctly,” Cortez said.

Dr. Margaret Ryan, medical director for IHD in the Pacific Region, recalled that the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in December 2020 was an intense and critical time in the pandemic. “No one in DHA IHD had a ‘holiday’ last year – but all of us celebrated in the midst of the hard work we were doing,” she said.

Later, in August 2021, as the COVID-19 Delta variant became dominant in the U.S, COVID-19 cases surged. Defense Secretary Austin issued a mandate on Aug. 24, 2021, requiring all members of the Armed Forces under DOD authority on active duty or in the Ready Reserve, including the National Guard, to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.

Keep up with the latest news about the ongoing MHS response to COVID-19 at Health.mil/coronavirus.

You also may be interested in...

Article
Feb 25, 2022

Answering Your Questions About COVID-19 Testing

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.

Article Around MHS
Feb 18, 2022

Latasha Smith: Warrior against COVID-19

Military personnel looking at a patient's cardiac rhythm

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Latasha Smith, an Airman assigned to the 86th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron, was celebrated as Airlifter of the Week, Jan. 27, 2022, after leading the assault against COVID-19 for over a year.

Article Around MHS
Feb 11, 2022

COVID-19 therapeutics support DOD pandemic response

Military personnel getting COVID-29 doses ready

The U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency is helping to protect the operational force by distributing several new therapeutic options that help to lessen the symptoms of mild-to-moderate cases of COVID-19 and keep Soldiers, their families and beneficiaries out of the hospital.

Technical Document
Jan 31, 2022

DOD COVID-19 Practice Management Guide Version 8

.PDF | 19.49 MB

This Practice Management Guide does not supersede DOD Policy. It is based upon the best information available at the time of publication. It is designed to provide information and assist decision making. It is not intended to define a standard of care and should not be construed as one. Neither should it be interpreted as prescribing an exclusive ...

Last Updated: May 04, 2023
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on X Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery