The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has asked the Department of Defense (DoD) to help enforce Wuhan coronavirus vaccination efforts. The top Pentagon spokesman announced Jan. 24 that it had received a request from FEMA to assist in administering COVID-19 vaccine doses. FEMA’s request for backup came in line with President Joe Biden’s goal to administer 1.5 million coronavirus vaccine shots daily.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Jan. 24 that the DoD has received the FEMA request. He added that the Pentagon is evaluating the request and what kind of support can be provided. “Given the significance of the request, it will be reviewed urgently but carefully,” Kirby remarked. He added that “DoD is committed to do as much as it possibly can to assist the whole-of-government effort against COVID-19,” a sentiment previously expressed by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
The Pentagon did not elaborate on what the military efforts would look like and how many troops could be deployed. But in a later press conference, Kirby said it will likely involve drafting both active and reserve National Guard troopers. The guardsmen will “help perform a variety of coronavirus-related tasks, including … getting more shots into people’s arms,” according to the spokesman.
Meanwhile, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said the Pentagon aimed to provide 10,000 troops and help open up 100 vaccination centers around the country. However, he told CBS Evening News that FEMA might have to work with limited vaccine doses produced by factories. “The production of the factories where the vaccine is made … is a limiting factor that we’re just [going to] have to continue to work through each week,” Klain said.
FEMA’s request for assistance came amid the agency’s deployment of more than 200 million ground staff to support mass immunization in eight states.
During a Jan. 25 press conference, COVID-19 Response Coordinator Andy Slavitt said the emergency response agency was “taking steps to speed the vaccine administration process.” He told reporters: “At the president’s direction, FEMA has increased its support to states, tribes and territories for vaccination sites.”
Slavitt elaborated the steps FEMA took to facilitate the Biden administration’s mass vaccination program. These included providing almost $1 billion to support vaccination sites across states, deploying “more vaccinators … to escalate the pace of vaccinations” and sending more than 200 staff to provide logistical support in eight states. He added that FEMA also provided federal equipment and supplies to support various states in their vaccination efforts. The coordinator did not go into detail regarding these actions.
The CDC previously hinted at deploying the military to aid in coronavirus vaccination efforts
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced it will offer additional vaccination support in South Carolina. The CDC’s announcement came as the first cases of the more infectious South African variant of the Wuhan coronavirus were found in the state.
A week earlier, the public health body announced its plans to bring in the military and medical students to help with vaccination. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a Jan. 19 appearance in Good Morning America that it will bring on board nursing and medical students, military doctors and retirees. She also mentioned that the COVID-19 vaccines will be made accessible by deploying mobile vaccination vans and giving pharmacies additional doses.
Walensky remarked that Biden administration is also focused on increasing the number of places where people can get vaccinated. Under the administration’s plan, Americans can simply head over to “community vaccination centers, mobile vans and federally qualified health centers and pharmacies” to get their COVID-19 jab.
Before he started his term, President Joe Biden announced his goal to vaccinate 100 million Americans in his first 100 days in office. He then upped this goal on Jan. 25 by increasing daily COVID-19 vaccinations to 1.5 million doses daily. This equated to 150 million Americans vaccinated during Biden’s first 100 days as president.
The president said the next day that his administration had purchased another 200 million doses of Wuhan coronavirus vaccine. This subsequent purchase gives the U.S. enough doses to inoculate 300 million Americans by the end of summer or early fall. (Related: Moderna says US to procure extra 100 million doses of its mRNA coronavirus vaccine.)
Referring to the vaccinations to combat the pandemic, Biden commented: “This will be one of the most difficult operational challenges we’ve ever undertaken as a nation.”