Vaccine eligibility open to many at US bases in Europe but appointments scarce
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KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Some U.S. military bases in Europe adhered to a White House pledge to open coronavirus vaccinations to every American eligible for them by Monday, but available appointments for a first dose remained scarce.
Only a handful of Europe locations listed open time slots for vaccinations Monday morning on the Defense Health Agency’s appointment portal. They included Spangdahlem and Geilenkirchen air bases in Germany, and in Italy, Aviano Air Base and Naval Support Activity Naples.
Ramstein Air Base in Germany was scheduled to open eligibility to personnel in all Defense Department tiers Monday. But the base warned Friday on its Facebook page that “vaccine availability may be limited for the next few weeks.”
U.S. European Command said Friday it expected to receive 83,000 first doses by May 7. That would enable more people in Tier 2, which includes the healthier, general population, to be vaccinated by the end of this month, the command said.
The Pentagon has said that all Defense Department beneficiaries, including those overseas, will be eligible for a vaccine appointment by Monday and that everyone eligible will be offered at least an initial dose by the middle of May. Vaccination rates at bases in Europe have mostly lagged behind those in the United States.
President Joe Biden announced April 6 that he had moved the deadline for states to open up coronavirus vaccinations to all U.S. residents 18 and older to Monday.
“No more confusing rules, no more confusing restrictions,” Biden said during a visit to a vaccination site in Alexandria, Va., NPR reported.
The DHA portal, at https://informatics-stage.health.mil/COVAX/, listed most installations in Europe and several in Asia on Monday. But very few in Europe had open appointments and several listed restrictions.
Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the military’s largest overseas medical facility, said it was vaccinating those 65 years of age and older, and anyone with underlying medical conditions between 18 and 64. But it made no reference on the DHA portal to accepting appointments for the general population.
At the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe health care facility in Belgium, appointments Monday morning remained open only to Tier 1, which includes emergency responders, critical workers and those with underlying health conditions, among others. Anyone in Tier 2 would be turned away, the facility said on the DHA portal.
In Bavaria, there were no open time slots for appointments available at seven vaccination sites , including two at Hohenfels, two at Grafenwoehr, and one location each at Ansbach, Katterbach and Vilseck.
Ramstein Air Base was not listed as an available site on the DHA portal. The base said it was finalizing its appointment process and planned to host a virtual town hall meeting Tuesday at 4 p.m. to discuss vaccine distribution.
Geilenkirchen said on its portal page that it was providing the vaccine to all those eligible in its area of responsibility, which does not include patients from Spangdahlem, SHAPE, Brussels or the Kaiserslautern area.
This story will be updated.