The Pentagon has bought 2.7 million vaccines, and 1.4 million of those will go to active duty military. National Guard troops on active duty are also required to receive the vaccine, as are civilian Defense Department employees who are in critical jobs. As a result, the military is expected to provide health officials with an early assessment of the vaccine. Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart and commander of U.S. Northern Command said that as many as 400 troops are ready to go to five regional headquarters around the country to assist federal health and emergency management officials if needed as the flu season heats up.
Shots will be doled out on a priority basis, with troops preparing to deploy first, followed by other active duty forces, particularly any who might be needed to quickly respond to a hurricane or other emergency. Families of military members will receive their shots through the military bases, who will be working with state officials and get their own shipments of the vaccine. Renuart said it appears there is enough of the vaccine to meet the military’s needs.
The military is on tap to provide help to states if problems come up as the flu season continues. So far, Renuart said that between 15 and 20 troops have been dispatched to each of the five regional headquarters, to work with officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and state leaders. But the military presence could rise to 80 in each regional office if needed, he said. “If you see the virus begin to mutate or have a broader affect, or pockets where the vaccine isn’t available or is less effective,” and the local authorities need help, the military would send the additional support, Renuart said.
For the general population, the first swine flu vaccine should be in some doctors’ offices as early as Oct. 5, according to U.S. health officials. The early batches will protect 6 million to 7 million people, but over time, the government expects to have a total of 250 million doses of the new vaccine. Vaccine shipments will go directly to doctors, clinics and other providers designated by each state.
ProMED Digest V2009 #460 www.promedmail.org