Regional Health Command Europe provides COVID-19 vaccine updates

Master Sgt. Luca Farkas, 911th Aeromedical Staging Squadron aeromedical technician, administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a member of the 911th Airlift Wing at the Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station, Pennsylvania, Jan. 2. (U.S. Air Force photo by Joshua J. Seybert)

As Army Medical Treatment Facilities across Europe ramp up COVID-19 vaccine distribution to the U.S. military community, Regional Health Command Europe leadership is working hard to keep the community informed.

U.S. Army installations throughout Europe are using a phased vaccine distribution process mandated by the Department of Defense. This process prioritizes those most at risk of contracting COVID-19 and those who are most vulnerable to be among the first to receive vaccinations.

DOD personnel in Europe should stay tuned to their Medical Treatment Facility’s social media and web channels for the latest information on where the phased distribution process is at and when they will have the opportunity to be vaccinated. Updates on the distribution plan progress are provided every Monday by noon.

“At first, we focused on vaccinating healthcare workers and first responders and our deployable forces here in Europe,” said Brig. Gen. Mark Thompson, RHCE’s commanding general. “We are now vaccinating other mission essential personnel, including teachers and installation support personnel performing everyday crucial services. We are also starting to vaccinate beneficiaries over the age of 65 and others determined to be high risk by the U.S. Center for Disease and Control and our medical staff.”

The number of people in each priority group varies by location, so Thompson cautions that some locations might move through the population groups more quickly than at others.

A vial of the COVID-19 vaccine and a syringe sit on a table at the Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station, Pennsylvania, Jan. 28. (U.S. Air Force photo by Joshua J. Seybert)

“Distribution will vary from one clinic to another based on a number of factors such as, how much vaccine that clinic received, how many people in each population group, how many people elect to be vaccinated, etc.,” Thompson said. “We ask for your continued patience with our staff who are doing their best to vaccinate the community as quickly as possible, while doing so safely.”

Army health clinics are working closely with garrisons and operational units to determine who will be next in line to be vaccinated, and to determine who fits into the high-risk categories.

“Our medical staff is currently working to identify high-risk patients and place them in priority groups,” Thompson said. “They are looking at medical history, CDC guidance, and the DOD population schema to determine who should receive the next doses.”

The Moderna vaccine being offered to the military community in Europe was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration under an Emergency Use Authorization.

“I strongly believe that this vaccine is extremely safe and effective, and while it is absolutely voluntary, I encourage you to make an informed decision to protect yourself, your family, your fellow Soldiers and your community,” Thompson said.

The Moderna vaccine requires two doses, approximately 28 days apart, and many healthcare workers and first responders are already lining up to receive their second dose of the vaccine.

“You should follow the instructions on how to schedule a second dose appointment given to you when you received your first vaccination,” said Thompson. “If you were instructed to call the appointment booking line after 14 days, we urge you to make that call and get scheduled for your second dose. Remember, the vaccine is 94% effective only after receiving two doses.”

Thompson also emphasized that until the risk of COVID is substantially reduced, it’s still important to continue to wear masks and practice physical distancing.

“Remember the three Ws: wash your hands, wear a mask (or face covering), and watch your distance,” Thompson said. “Continue to follow guidance established by senior responsible officers, as well as state and host nation authorities. And if you’re asked to quarantine or restrict movement, please take it seriously. We are all responsible for helping to stop the spread of COVID.”