The Pentagon’s top spokesman announced Thursday it had received a request to assist with getting shots in the arms of Americans across different parts of the country.
‘The Department of Defense has received a request from FEMA for assistance in administering COVID-19 vaccine at various locations across the country.
‘The Department is evaluating the request, and what kinds of support it can provide,’ Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said in a statement.
Kirby said that ‘given the significance of the request it will be reviewed urgently but carefully’ to determine what military assets can be safely made available to help the vaccine rollout.
‘As [Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin] has said, DOD is committed to do as much as it possibly can to assist the whole-of-government effort against COVID-19,’ he added.
The US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has asked the Pentagon (above) to step in to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to help meet Biden’s goal of 150 million shots a day
The Pentagon did not go into detail on what the military effort will look like or how many troops could be involved.
Kirby said at a press conference later Thursday that it will likely involve a mix of active-duty National Guard and reserve troops being drafted in ‘to help perform a variety of coronavirus-related tasks, including help getting more shots into people’s arms’.
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said Thursday night the plan is for the Pentagon to provide 10,000 troops and help open up 100 vaccination centers nationwide.
‘FEMA is working with the Department of Defense to use 10,000 troops and open up 100 centers around the country to increase the availability of the vaccinations,’ he told CBS Evening News.
‘But the production of the factories where the vaccine is made, that is a limiting factor that we’re just gonna have to continue to work through each week.’
It is not clear what specific roles military personnel will take for example whether military medical staff will administer doses or if they will take on more logistical tasks.
While many states have already turned to their National Guards to help with their vaccination plans the newly confirmed Defense Secretary Austin has promised to increase military support to manage the pandemic.
Members of the Nevada National Guard at the COVID-19 site at Cashman Center, Las Vegas. The Pentagon said its assistance will likely involve a mix of active-duty National Guard and reserve troops performing ‘a variety of coronavirus related tasks’
Throughout the nation’s battle against the virus, the military has taken an active role.
At the height of the pandemic, more than 47,000 National Guard troops were deployed to support the nation’s response including building makeshift hospitals and testing centers.
The drafting in of military assistance for the vaccine program comes as President Biden vowed to embark on a ‘full scale war-time effort’ to beat the pandemic that has so far killed more than 420,000 Americans.
Biden on Monday upped his COVID-19 vaccination goal to 1.5 million doses every day – equivalent to 150 million in his first 100 days in office.
This marked an increase from his promise of 100 million shots in 100 days laid out in the days before he was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States.
Biden faced criticism for this goal as it emerged the US had already exceeded the pace of 1 million doses per day.
Over the last week, an average of 1.26 million doses have been administered each day.
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said Thursday night the plan is for the Pentagon to provide 10,000 troops and help open up 100 vaccination centers nationwide
While the rate of rollout is accelerating, the nation’s vaccination program has fallen far short of targets.
To date, just 27.3 million doses have been administered nationwide in the more than six weeks since the first American got a shot on December 14, according to Bloomberg data.
This is a dismal effort compared to the target of 20 million by the end of December set by the Trump administration and the 100 million Donald Trump even boasted could be achieved by the year end.
The vaccine rollout program was plagued by delays from the get-go with the Trump administration telling states they were being too slow while state governors pushed the blame onto a lack of supply from the federal government.
Nationwide 6.8 percent of Americans have so far received the first dose while 1.4 percent have had both the first and second dose.
Biden on Monday upped his COVID-19 vaccination goal to 1.5 million doses every day – equivalent to 150 million in his first 100 days in office
Biden said Tuesday his administration had bought another 200 million doses meaning there will be enough doses to have 300 million Americans – nearly the entire US population – vaccinated by the end of summer or early fall.
‘This will be one of the most difficult operational challenges we’ve ever undertaken as a nation,’ he said.
Biden also vowed to increase supply to states to 10 million each week for the next three weeks, up from 8.6 million.
While upping the supply is one key way to increase rollout, there’s also been delays once the supply reaches states.
Just 56.4 percent of doses distributed to states has so far gone into the arms of waiting Americans, Bloomberg data shows.
Biden said state governors will be given a three-week forecast of their allocations to help them better prepare how to administer the doses on the ground.
‘We will both increase the supply in the short term by more than 15 percent and give our state and local partners more certainty about when the deliveries will arrive,’ he said.
To date, 432,000 Americans have been killed and more than 25.7 million cases have been recorded since the pandemic first started ravaging the nation last spring.