In 2021, the National Guard will be assisting with coronavirus vaccine distribution in at least 26 states, according to senior Guard officials.
“Currently, governors in 26 states and territories are planning to use the National Guard in some capacity for Covid-19 vaccine distribution,” said Nahaku McFadden, the National Guard Bureau’s media operations chief, in a Dec. 14 telephone press conference.
Of those 26 states, 11 plan to exclusively assist with the administrative and logistics processes necessary to push the vaccine to healthcare providers. Ohio’s National Guard, for example, is only unloading and repackaging vaccine shipments for transport to inoculation sites, explained Army Maj. Gen. John Harris Jr., the state’s adjutant general, in the Dec. 14 press call.
National Guard personnel will be administering vaccines in at least 15 states, NGB spokesman Wayne Hall told Military Times. That number may change, though, based on whether more vaccines obtain emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. That would increase the supply of available vaccine, and potentially the need for the Guard, said Ohio’s Harris in the press conference.
Seven of the states whose respective National Guards are administering the vaccine are also assisting with the logistics of distribution, said Hall.
Some 20,000 National Guard troops remained on duty fighting the COVID-19 pandemic as of Dec. 14, said McFadden, the NGB media operations chief.
Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army. He focuses on investigations, personnel concerns and military justice. Davis, also a Guard veteran, was a finalist in the 2023 Livingston Awards for his work with The Texas Tribune investigating the National Guard's border missions. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill.