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Navy Hospitalman Roman Silvestri administers a coronavirus vaccine to Cmdr. Joseph Kotora at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, N.H., on Dec. 15. Vaccines are coming soon to six installations in Japan, U.S. Forces Japan announced Dec. 20.
Navy Hospitalman Roman Silvestri administers a coronavirus vaccine to Cmdr. Joseph Kotora at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, N.H., on Dec. 15. Vaccines are coming soon to six installations in Japan, U.S. Forces Japan announced Dec. 20. (Imani N. Daniels/U.S. Navy)

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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Some service members and civilian employees at six U.S. military bases will be among the first to receive the coronavirus vaccine under a Defense Department pilot program, U.S. Forces Japan announced Sunday.

Kadena Air Base and Camp Foster on Okinawa, Yokota Air Base in Tokyo, Yokosuka Naval Base and Camp Zama in Kanagawa prefecture and Misawa Air Base in northeast Japan are among sites that DOD has selected, according to the statement.

“Moderna’s vaccine is the one initially scheduled for distribution to the USFJ population,” the statement said.

U.S. Army Japan expects vaccine supplies within two weeks, Col. Tanya Peacock, commander of the U.S. Army Medical Department Activity Japan, said Monday during a Facebook Live video.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved the Moderna vaccine for emergency use. The approval came a week after the FDA authorized the first use of another vaccine developed by Pfizer and German company BioNTech SE.

Subjects must volunteer for the inoculation under the emergency-use designation, Peacock said during the livestream.

Both vaccines must be kept cold but the Moderna vaccine can be stored in most standard medical refrigerators. Pfizer’s requires ultra-cold storage.

The vaccine will be administered in a two-shot series, said Col. Marshall Mendenhall, deputy commander for clinical services for U.S. Army Japan, during the Facebook livestream.

Some predictable side effects of the vaccine include headache, muscle ache, fatigue and soreness at the injection site, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The military’s pilot program will validate vaccine distribution, administration and reporting processes and help determine additional distribution sites, USFJ said in its statement.

“Kadena Medical Facility… will receive a very limited amount of vaccinations for pilot-process administration within the coming days,” the statement said.

The other five pilot sites in Japan will receive initial vaccine shipments “at the same time or shortly after Kadena,” the statement said.

The Defense Department has a coordinated strategy for prioritizing, distributing and administering the COVID-19 vaccine, the statement said. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.

USFJ will use a phased approach to vaccinate all active duty and reserve troops, TRICARE Prime and TRICARE Select beneficiaries and select DOD civilians and contract personnel authorized to receive immunizations from the department, USFJ said in its statement.

“The timeline for the large-scale distribution of vaccine doses has not been solidified yet,” the statement said.

Medical-care and emergency-service providers have priority for immediate inoculation, including medical personnel, firefighters and public health and safety personnel, USFJ said in its statement.

During this first round, Peacock said, the Army will contact its people via email for their turn for inoculations.

USFJ has made no change to its health protection level and remains under a public health emergency, the statement said.

“All USFJ personnel must continue to wear appropriate masks, practice physical distancing, wash hands, and follow restrictions of movement to protect the health and safety of our community on and off our installations,” the statement said.

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