By Army Reerve Strategic Communications
U.S. Army Reserve Command
U.S ARMY COVID-19 HOTLINE: 1-800-984-8523
OCONUS DSN: 312-421-3700 | CONUS DSN: 421-3700
CDC INFORMATION HOTLINE: 1-800-232-4636
QUESTION 1: What is the latest on the COVID-19 vaccine for the Army Reserve?
ANSWER 1: The vaccine is starting to arrive at Military Treatment Facilities. Right now, it is voluntary. Due to production and available quantities, it will be administered over a span of months. The Army Reserve developed priorities for vaccination of USAR forces. First priority are USAR medical personnel on active duty supporting COVID-19 response operations, such as Urban Augmentation Medical Task Forces (UAMTFs). Second priority are personnel on active duty in support of critical national capabilities (i.e. Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Response Element (C2CRE)). Third priority are personnel preparing to deploy within the next three months. Fourth priority are personnel preparing to deploy at a time beyond three months. Final priority is to other USAR units determined by the availability of vaccines and prevalent COVID risk factors.
Army Reserve TPU Soldiers seeking to receive COVID-19 vaccinations through non-military means, such as Walgreens, are not considered to be in a duty status and may be required to pay out-of-pocket. Expenses incurred from receiving the vaccination through non-military means are not reimbursable.
Please note that the vaccine is a two dose series. It is very important that you receive the vaccine from the same manufacturer for both doses and at the specified time, which will vary between manufacturers.
More details and guidance expected in the coming weeks. In the meantime, maintain safety precautions, wear your face mask whenever possible, wash your hands and maintain social distance.
QUESTION 2: What is the Army Reserve’s supporting role in Operation Warp Speed?
ANSWER 2: The Army Reserve is supporting DoD in its support of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and is harnessing vast DoD logistical expertise to provide the vision and intent for the distribution strategy, while working hand in hand with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to leverage their planning efforts.
We have provided Regional Vaccine Planners working with the CDC Vaccine Task Force to ensure assigned jurisdictions complete the readiness requirements in preparation to receiving vaccine; charged with training jurisdictional medical personnel on vaccine preparation, distribution (to include tracking and ordering of the first and second Pfizer doses), and issue resolution during roll out.
These regions include: Region 6 (Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas and the cities of Houston and San Antonio); Region 7 (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska); and Region 10 Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington).
QUESTION 3: Will we still need to wear masks and practice physical distancing once a vaccine is available?
ANSWER 3: Yes. The intent of the vaccine is to prevent the spread of COVID 19. We will still need to wear cloth face coverings and practice social distancing to limit the spread of the virus. Additionally, there will not be enough of the vaccine initially to vaccinate everyone who wants the vaccine, and COVID-19 pandemic risks will continue. We will continue to recommend wearing masks and practicing social distancing, for everyone, until pandemic risk of COVID-19 is substantially reduced.
Per Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the U.S. could achieve herd immunity against COVID-19 by “the end of the second quarter of CY2021.” Depending on the vaccine rollout. However, Dr. Fauci also states he does not believe we will have some degree of relief where the level of infection will be so low in society we can start approaching some normality until the fall of 2021.
QUESTION 4: Why is the vaccine not available near my Army Reserve center or command headquarters?
ANSWER 4: The distribution process is phase-driven through a controlled pilot to protect Army personnel from COVID-19 as quickly as possible. In the initial phases, a limited number of sites were selected to receive the vaccine. Initial sites allow DoD to validate distribution and administration processes and structures and to guide senior leader decisions to increase distribution and administration as vaccine manufacturing and CDC allocation permits. Initial site performance will guide follow-on site identification and the scaling of DoD distribution and administration processes.
Initial distribution sites were selected by the DoD’s COVID Task Force from sites recommended by the military services and U.S. Coast Guard, to best support several criteria:
QUESTION 5: Will Army Reserve TRICARE beneficiaries including military retirees have access to the vaccine?
ANSWER 5: Yes, based on DoD prioritization. While there is currently limited vaccine availability, vaccination distribution prioritization will focus on individuals providing direct medical care and maintaining essential national security and installation functions; deploying forces; and those beneficiaries at the highest risk for developing severe illness from COVID-19. TRICARE beneficiaries empaneled at a DoD Military Treatment Facility (MTF) are eligible to receive the vaccine at a DoD MTF. TRICARE beneficiaries who receive care at DoD MTFs on a space-available basis can alternately receive vaccines through the local civilian jurisdiction.
QUESTION 6: Why is the plan phase driven and not population or hot spot focused?
ANSWER 6: The distribution process is phase driven to safely protect personnel from COVID-19 as quickly as possible. In the initial phase, a limited number of sites were selected to receive the vaccine. Initial sites allow DoD to validate distribution and administration processes and structures and to guide senior leader decisions to increase distribution as vaccine manufacturing and CDC allocation permits. Initial site performance will guide follow-on site identification and the scaling of DoD distribution and administration processes.
QUESTION 7: Where should I be vaccinated?
ANSWER 7: To the greatest extent possible, beneficiaries in priority groups who are enrolled at Military Treatment Facilities should come to the MTF to be vaccinated. This will ensure the maximum number of vaccine opportunities allocated to jurisdictions other than DoD are available for the non-DoD population. TRICARE beneficiaries who receive care at DoD MTFs on a space-available basis can alternately receive vaccine through the local civilian jurisdiction. All TPU Soldiers can receive the vaccine at any local Military Treatment Facility. Coordination will need to be made at BN level with the MTF to ensure they can support. Additionally, USAR is working on partnering with other services to take advantage of some of the over 100 CONUS-wide DOD Vaccination facilities.
QUESTION 8: How will you track Army Reserve personnel who receive a COVID vaccine?
ANSWER 8: DoD will track COVID vaccine administration through existing military medical record reporting systems (MEDPROS).
QUESTION 9: If I already had COVID-19, should I still get a vaccine?
ANSWER 9: Yes, because the duration of immunity following COVID-19 infection is unknown, and the vaccine may be effective in protecting previously infected people.
QUESTION 10: Who will be the first to get the vaccine?
ANSWER 10: Vaccination distribution prioritization will initially focus on those providing direct medical care and maintaining essential national security and installation functions; deploying forces; and those at the highest risk for developing severe illness from COVID-19.
QUESTION 11: Can someone get COVID-19 from the vaccine?
ANSWER 11: No, it is not possible to get COVID-19 from vaccines. Vaccines against COVID-19 use inactivated virus, parts of the virus or a gene from the virus. None of these can cause COVID-19.
QUESTION 12: Should I get the vaccine for influenza (flu shot)?
ANSWER 12: Yes, it is very important to get the influenza vaccine, particularly this season when both influenza viruses and COVID-19 will infect people.
QUESTION 13: Will all service members be required to receive the vaccine?
ANSWER 13: No. The vaccine is currently offered on a voluntary basis. Priority populations are highly encouraged to receive the vaccine. When formally licensed by the FDA, the DoD may require a vaccine for all military personnel or personnel in specific fields, as is the case for the influenza vaccine.
QUESTION 14: Why should we receive the first-available vaccine when there are several other vaccines still in trials?
ANSWER 14: People who are offered the first-available vaccine are considered to be in groups that are most in need of COVID-19 protection. Vaccinated people will be protecting themselves, as well as their families and all people with whom they interact. Evaluation of the first-available vaccine will continue, even after its pre-licensure release. The release of other vaccines cannot be fully predicted, so people who are offered the first- available vaccine will be encouraged to receive this vaccine.
QUESTION 15: How many iterations will I need of the COVID-19 vaccine?
ANSWER 15: The COVID-19 vaccine consists of two doses administered about 21-28 days apart. Be sure to obtain both doses from the same provider.
QUESTION 16: What is MRNA and why has it never been used before?
ANSWER 16: MRNA is a sequence of genetic code present in all living cells that tells cells what proteins to build so they can function. So, the new Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines use mRNA to tell the cells to build the protein including the “spike” protein. Our bodies mount an immune response to this spike protein and produce antibodies to fight the virus proteins made by our cells. In other vaccines small parts of the actual virus itself or the whole virus (alive or dead) is injected into the body to trigger the immune response. Similar mRNA technology had been used to develop 2 Ebola vaccines. These vaccines were both studied and found to be safe and effective but have not been brought to the FDA yet.
QUESTION 17: It seems like they rushed the vaccine.
ANSWER 17: T-19 RNA sequence was posted on 10 JAN 2020 and scientists immediately went to work. The first U.S. clinical trial for a vaccine began just 66 days later. This was possible because there were highly adaptable techniques waiting in the wings when COVID-19 hit. Thanks to research that began in 2002 on the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus and then the Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome coronavirus a decade later, scientists already knew to focus their attention on the novel coronavirus’ spike protein. They also knew which genetic modifications would stabilize the spike and those that would make the mRNA safer. Additionally, RNA can be produced much quicker than other vaccines because the RNA is made in a lab by biochemical synthesis.
Typically, the slowest part of vaccine development is testing. Companies run efficacy and safety tests on animals and then in humans which often takes years. The COVID-19 vaccine went through all the same trials but due to priority and available funding, companies were able to run some tests at the same time. Regulators were also able move quicker than normal.
So, it’s a combination of having proven technology (mRNA) on the shelf ready to go and familiarity with the coronavirus family of viruses from previous studies.
QUESTION 18: Is there anyone who should not get the COVID Vaccine?
ANSWER 18: There is limited data about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for people who are pregnant and lactating. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that COVID-19 vaccines should not be withheld from pregnant individuals and it should be offered to lactating individuals. However, a conversation between the patient and their clinical team may be needed to assist in this decision making.
The Pfizer vaccine is only recommended for use in individuals age 16 and older and the Moderna vaccine is only for use in individuals age 18 and older.
A person who is currently sick with COVID-19 should wait until their symptoms have cleared and complete isolation until they receive the vaccine. The CDC also recommends anyone treated with a COVID-19 antibody treatment wait at least 90 days from that treatment to get the vaccine.
QUESTION 19: Why are two doses/shots of the vaccine required? How effective is one shot? What if I am going to be traveling when I'm due to get the second shot?
ANSWER 19: The two available COVID-19 vaccines, manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna, require two doses. This is necessary to ensure it is maximally effective. For instance, the Pfizer vaccine is 52% effective after one dose and 95% effective after the second dose. The second shot will also likely extend the duration of immunity, although this is still being studied. The second Pfizer vaccine dose should be given 21 days after the initial dose and 28 days for the Moderna vaccine. Personnel need to ensure they will be available to receive the second dose at the time of receiving the first dose. However, if they are unable to make the timeline, they have up to 45 days to get the second dose. After 45 days, they will need to consult with a physician.