Get a COVID-19 vaccine, and get it as soon as it’s available to you.
That’s the message from President Biden’s Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci and Defense Health Agency Director Lt. Gen (Dr.) Ron Place during recent town halls with military families addressing the safety, efficacy and availability of the vaccine.
“You’re part of the solution to this outbreak,” explained Fauci, emphasizing that the vaccine is needed to protect not only Service members, but their families and acquaintances as well.
“You’ve got to think of your own health, which is really very important, but you’ve got to think about your societal obligation, including people close to you personally as well as other members of families of other individuals,” he said.
Fauci and Place addressed thousands of military families during a second virtual town hall event hosted by Blue Star Families, a non-profit Military/Veteran Service Organization dedicated to military family matters, and the American Red Cross. The initial virtual town hall was Feb. 4.
During the March 4 town hall, Place said the Department of Defense had administered almost 1.3 million total doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines at 335 DOD sites around the world. As of March 11, this number has now increased to nearly 1.5 million vaccines administered. Additionally, more than 82,000 vaccinations have been administered to Military Health System beneficiaries at retail pharmacies, Place said.
While supply is increasing and the DoD continues to limit vaccines to certain groups under Tier 1 of the distribution plan, Place said he expects that most DoD vaccination sites will move to Tier 2 by April. Tier 2 means the vaccines will be available to MHS families in the DoD.
“When your tier comes up, no matter where you are, in the United States, OCONUS (outside the continental United States), coming from OCONUS to the United States, when your tier comes up you get the vaccine,” Place said.
Asked whether holding off until a specific vaccine becomes available is a good strategy, Fauci advised: “Get the one you can get now.” Janssen’s one-shot vaccine recently received Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization, so now there are three vaccines available to the public.
He also said to not wait to get vaccinated because of fear of the COVID-19 variants from South Africa, Brazil, and Great Britain. “Get vaccinated and get a high enough titer (a measure of antibodies in the blood). That will give enough of a cushion to protect against the variants.”
To further allay hesitancy among Service members to get vaccinated, he called the likelihood of serious adverse reactions to the vaccines “vanishingly small.”