While Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support Medical professionals are used to their roles acquiring and issuing vaccines in support of Department of Defense worldwide immunization regiments, the novel circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic have provided an opportunity to be a part of an historic effort.
In order to facilitate DLA’s role in the Operation Warp Speed COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, the first 30,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine destined for OCONUS and deployed Navy Fleet requirements were ordered on Dec. 11 by the organization’s pharmaceutical support arm in anticipation of an Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.
With that EUA granted on Dec. 18, Medical teams are working tirelessly to supply overseas Department of Defense and Navy Fleet customers with the potentially lifesaving doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, DLA Troop Support Commander Army Brig. Gen. Gavin Lawrence said.
“Our role as a partner in OWS is to make sure the requirements of our warfighters overseas and afloat have the access to the vaccine that they need. Our teams are fully engaged with our partners at [the Department of Health and Human Services] and DLA Distribution to make that happen,” Lawrence said.
The initial doses were ordered by the military services to support “Tier 1” healthcare workers in DOD military treatment facilities and clinics in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations for determining risk level in a pandemic.
Normally, DLA is the acquisition arm that purchases vaccines for the military. In this case, the Medical team is utilizing an OWS contract awarded by HHS, Medical Director Army Col. Matthew Voyles said.
“OWS is leading the charge with overall responsibility for securing and distributing the vaccine for 64 U.S. jurisdictions, and they did the acquisition,” he said. “As the logistics enabler for DOD, our job is to leverage that acquisition to garner and deliver the doses needed for the customers in our jurisdiction.”
The benefit to the DOD and nation is a single, unduplicated effort with OWS working through HHS to award a series of large contracts and managing customer orders though a single CDC vaccine ordering system, VTrckS.
“[Medical] has used cooperative buying power strategies with other partners such as the Department of Veteran Affairs, but this is a new acquisition and control process different from any other support we’ve provided,” said Medical Deputy Director Beth McMaster.
Without the acquisition process to facilitate, the Medical team’s role is altered, but not fully changed.
“We’re still monitoring the cold chain requirements for vaccines up to -20 degrees Celsius, and working with military customers we’re coordinating requirements and placing the orders that trigger delivery to DLA Distribution facilities,” McMaster said.
As DLA Distribution ships the vaccine, Medical then tracks the orders through the transportation process as well as the ancillary kits needed to administer the doses. These kits contain the necessary supplies to administer and record the COVID-19 vaccinations including needles, syringes, alcohol prep pads, surgical masks, face shields and vaccination record cards for recipients, she said.
The Medical team is in constant contact with all stakeholders in the DOD purview, and expects the battle rhythm to stabilize as weekly allocations of vaccines roll in and needs are met, Voyles said.
“Our Troop Support teams will continue to coordinate with partners at DLA Distribution, DOD and OWS for as long as needed to accomplish the goals of this monumental effort,” Lawrence said.