The U.S. will deploy more than 1,000 service members to assist five new federal vaccination centers, members of the White House COVID Response Team announced Friday.
The Secretary of Defense has authorized active-duty military troops — mostly medical personnel — to deploy to federal vaccination sites, starting with an initial wave in California by Feb. 15.
The first federally-managed vaccination centers, which are supported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, are set to open at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum and at California State University in Los Angeles on Feb. 16 — some of the areas hardest hit by the pandemic.
President Biden has made it his goal to open at least 100 of those sites within his first 100 days, and his COVID Response Coordinator, Jeff Zients, predicted earlier this week that the administration would surpass that goal.
“The military’s critical role in supporting sites will help vaccinate thousands of people per day and ensure that every American who wants a vaccine will receive one,” Andy Slavitt, senior adviser for the COVID response, said in a briefing Friday.
Officials have not announced where the next sites will be located or when they’re set to open, but FEMA has requested more troops for the effort. In a press briefing Friday, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said they are still working with the agency to determine which sites may need military assistance next.
Already, FEMA has sent nearly 500 of its own staff to support vaccination sites around the country. The agency also said it’s reimbursing states for costs related to vaccine distribution and administration.
The California vaccination sites are serving as a pilot of the larger effort, and they’re expected to stay open every day, with the goal of administering 6,000 shots per day.
“In the fight against COVID-19, partnership is key, especially when it comes to reaching Californians in underserved areas,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said earlier this week. “These new sites will help us get available supply to some of the California communities most in need.”
On Friday, officials also detailed how the Defense Production Act was being used to provide supplies to Pfizer for vaccine production, augment production of surgical gloves and invest in rapid, at-home tests.
“The country’s well behind where we need to be in testing,” said Tim Manning, former deputy administrator at FEMA and member of the COVID Response Team.
“Over the coming weeks, the U.S. government has plans to invest in another six suppliers to rapidly surge domestic testing capability,” Manning said. “61 million point-of-care or at-home tests will be available by this summer.”