Active-duty troops will be administering COVID-19 vaccines at 10 more sites, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Friday, bringing the told number of mass vaccination centers to 35 around the country.
Fifteen of those have stood up so far, with troops manning clinics run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, giving between 3,000 and 6,000 shots a day in California, Texas, New York, Florida and Pennsylvania.
“Today we are deploying teams to community vaccination center sites in Illinois and North Carolina, and in the coming weeks, we will send teams to Ohio and to Georgia,” Kirby said.
Each of those sites, depending on the population and the demand in the area, will have up to 200 active-duty troops at sites capable of giving either 3,000 or 6,000 inoculations a day, depending on the team’s size.
The Pentagon has said it could send troops to as many as 100 sites, a mission that could continue throughout much of this year, a National Guard official told Military Times on Friday.
To assist the active troops, local National Guard units of all professional backgrounds have been called up to help check-in and check-out patients, who must spend at least 15 minutes after their shots waiting at the site in case of adverse reactions.
“They told me I could be here until September, so we’ll see,” Senior Airman Samantha Campos, an unmanned aerial vehicle crew chief, told Military Times at the Los Angeles site on Feb. 24.
Campos, who works as a civilian at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California, said she had a young daughter whom she was not visiting during her deployment, so as to protect her and their community from spreading the novel coronavirus.
Two National Guard adjutants general told Military Times on Friday that National Guard leadership has the flexibility to swap out support personnel.
“Those are fairly easy for us to rotate,” Army Maj. Gen. Bret Daugherty, who heads the Washington National Guard, said, adding that in his state, commands are working to support non-FEMA vaccination sites with volunteers.
September is also a broad guideline, according to Air Force Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac, who leads the Nebraska National Guard.
“...we currently, under the FEMA mission assignment process, have authority to put people on orders up through the end of September, but whether or not an individual is, is another matter,” he said, adding, “...I suspect if that airman would identify that she needed to return to her regular employment, or other things, that would be accommodated.”
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.