Pentagon workers get H1N1 vaccine
Stars and Stripes November 11, 2009
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Pentagon is administering 25,000 doses of swine flu to military personnel, civilian employees and defense contractors despite a Defense Department study that found most Pentagon employees are at low risk for infection.
With a national shortage of the vaccine, the U.S. has established a priority list for the most vulnerable, including pregnant women and children younger than 5.
“I can tell you, as you all probably know, that we, like a lot of institutions right now, have a very limited supply of vaccine,” Geoff Morrell, Pentagon press secretary, said last week.
But since Thursday, anyone with a military or Defense Department ID received the vaccine, including dependents, secretaries, paper-pushers, and others far from the front lines.
In the Defense Department, priority begins with military servicemembers first, with thousands deployed in war zones still awaiting their doses, then deployed health care workers.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Tuesday whether in Afghanistan, Southern Command or in the U.S., “you would work down those priorities.”
An assessment by three oversight agencies in Washington reported Oct. 30 that only a small group of Pentagon clinic employees working with infected patients were at higher risk of H1N1 exposure. Pentagon guards and cashiers who interact with thousands of employees each day were considered “medium risk.”
“All other Pentagon … employee work spaces are considered to be at low risk of exposure,” it said.
On Tuesday, a continuous line of roughly 100 people in the Pentagon in Northern Virginia included Air Force master sergeants, middle-aged contractors and healthy women in their 20s.
A soldier working the line said the Pentagon received enough doses to cover everybody, so they do not have to follow the prioritization categories.
But last week, Morrell told reporters: “According to our prioritization list, our military forces and those who support them are at the top of that list. And right now we don’t have enough to even take care of all of them.”