Military in Europe finishes its first round of coronavirus vaccinations
By NANCY MONTGOMERY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 13, 2021
Stars and Stripes is making stories on the coronavirus pandemic available free of charge. See other free reports here. Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter here. Please support our journalism with a subscription.
VICENZA, Italy — The U.S. military in Europe has finished administering its first batch of coronavirus vaccinations to select health care workers and first responders, health officials said Tuesday.
Nearly all doses received were used since the first injection three weeks ago, marking the end of the vaccine rollout’s pilot program.
“By and large, we’ve administered all the vaccine we were given in this initial distribution phase,” said Gino Mattarano, a spokesman for Regional Health Command Europe, which oversees 11 health care facilities.
A “finite” supply of the Moderna vaccine had been received, he said, intended primarily to test the military’s ability to safely distribute and dispense the vaccine.
It’s unknown when the next round will arrive, Mattarano said. Those vaccines will go to more health care workers and first responders, as well as the next group of recipients — deploying troops and those with “critical national capabilities,” Mattarano said.
Some clinics with surplus vaccines had already started on the second group, he said.
No doses have been held back for the required second shot, which is supposed to be administered 28 days after the first, Mattarano said.
The Defense Department hasn’t released figures on how many doses were provided or the total number of vaccinated personnel in Europe. Worldwide, DOD said that hospitals and clinics had received 353,500 doses and inoculated 136,557 people as of Tuesday.
Mark Mollner, a nurse practitioner at U.S. Army Garrison Italy’s health center in Vicenza, was one of them.
Mollner, 51, said he was thrilled to get the jab. His 19-year-old daughter spent five days hospitalized with COVID-19.
“I’m encouraging everybody to get it,” Mollner said.
Vicenza received 200 vaccine doses, a clinic worker said. Pharmacists began vaccinating people Friday and had used all the doses by Monday.
“As soon as the vaccines are coming in, I’m going to get them out,” said Lt. Col. Joe Matthews, health clinic commander. “This is a momentous occasion, exciting for everyone in the clinic and the community. It’s a great step forward.”
The clinic at Ramstein Air Base in Germany also vaccinated hundreds of health care workers and first responders after receiving its doses Dec. 30.
Aviano Air Base and the U.S. naval hospital in Naples began vaccinating health care workers Friday.
SHAPE and Brussels health care facilities last week received “a small amount of COVID vaccine,” officials said. They expected to complete initial vaccinations by Thursday.
One outlier was the Air Force’s 65th Air Base Group at Lajes Field, Azores, Portugal. Its allotment of initial doses wasn’t expected to arrive until the end of the month, a spokesman said.
How quickly the military moves through its phased approach to providing the vaccine depends on availability.
Pentagon officials told reporters last month that they expected unrestricted vaccine distribution by mid-2021.
Stars and Stripes reporter Jennifer H. Svan contributed to this report.