Military medical workers are first to get coronavirus jabs at US bases in Germany

Capt. Skyler Brown, a family medicine physician assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, receives the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from Pfc. Luca Webe at the U.S. Army Health Clinic in Grafenwoehr, Germany, on Dec. 28, 2020. Brown was the first servicemember in all of U.S. Army Europe and Africa to receive the vaccine, an Army official said.


By JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 28, 2020

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Frontline medical workers at three Army bases in Bavaria became the first in the U.S. military community in Europe to be vaccinated against the coronavirus Monday, officials said.

Military and civilian health care providers and first responders who work at clinics on Ansbach, Grafenwoehr and Vilseck received a first dose of the Moderna vaccine, developed by a Massachusetts biotech firm and awarded emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration on Dec. 18.

They will receive a second dose in 28 days, said Alain M. Polynice, a spokesman for U.S. Medical Department Activity Bavaria.

The Moderna vaccine was found in a 30,000-person trial to be 94% effective at preventing the disease caused by the coronavirus, and 100% effective at preventing severe illness caused by the virus, the company said in a statement in November.

“As we work through vaccinating all of our healthcare personnel and first responders, we will also begin to look at our highly deployable forces here in Europe and our high-risk populations,” Brig. Gen. Mark Thompson, Regional Health Command Europe commanding general, said in a statement.

“After that, we’ll be able to focus on our healthy service members, civilians, families, retirees not part of the high-risk population, etc,” he said.

U.S.-based military health care workers began being inoculated earlier this month with the vaccine developed by German company BioNTech and U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer against COVID-19, which, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University has claimed the lives of 1.77 million people worldwide, including 333,239 Americans. That vaccine received emergency use authorization from the FDA a week before the Modern vaccine.

Only those who consent to receive the vaccine will get it, military officials said, while recommending that people are inoculated.

“For anyone who is debating whether they should be vaccinated when it is offered, I would say please take a look at all the information available and make a personal decision based on facts and the science,” Col. E. Lee Bryan, commander of U.S. Medical Department Activity Bavaria, said in a statement.

The initial shipment to Europe of the Pentagon’s allotment of the Moderna vaccine arrived in Bavaria over the weekend, officials said.

Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in southwestern Germany was also expecting a shipment of the vaccine and had planned to start inoculating health care personnel at the largest U.S. overseas military hospital starting Saturday, but had to delay those plans when no vaccines arrived, said Gino Mattorano, a spokesman for Regional Health Command Europe.

Plans to begin vaccinating health care workers and first responders at nearby Ramstein Air Base starting Monday also had to be postponed, officials with the 86th Airlift Wing said.

“We expect (the vaccine) this week,” Mattorano said.

Germany and other countries in Europe have begun mass vaccination campaigns to try to bring a second wave of the pandemic under control.

In Germany, all but essential shops were shut down and large gatherings were banned starting Dec. 16. The tough measures will remain in effect until at least Jan. 10.

U.S. military commands have also stepped up to fight the virus, tightening restrictions for personnel and their families. One of the largest Army commands in Europe, the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, reimposed a curfew and limited unofficial travel and outdoor exercise to within 30 kilometers, or around 18 miles, of service members’ residences to try to help contain the coronavirus starting Jan. 4, Maj. Gen. Christopher Mohan said two weeks ago.

A large portion of the population will need to be vaccinated before risks from the virus diminish, the Army said. All Defense Department personnel must continue to wear face masks, practice physical distancing, wash their hands, follow restriction of movement rules and adhere to host nation restrictions.

Stars and Stripes reporters Marcus Kloeckner and Karin Zeitvogel contributed to this report.

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Capt. Joey Nguyen, a nurse assigned to 2nd Cavalry Regiment, receives the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from Capt. Breslin Gillis at the Soldier Readiness Processing Center, Rose Barracks, Vilseck, Germany, Dec. 28, 2020.