FORT BELVOIR, Va. –
The Defense Logistics Agency is ready to receive, pack and ship Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for Defense Department children ages 5 to 11 upon final approval by the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expected early next week.
Pre-orders for an initial 28,800 doses have already been placed by military treatment facilities in the U.S. European, Central and Indo-Pacific Commands. The vaccines will be packed and shipped from DLA Distribution Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, to 14 locations that have been processing vaccines since the agency began distributing them for older populations in December.
“As soon as the emergency use authorization is released, the first orders will kick in. So, if orders start dropping on Monday, Nov. 1, for example, there’s a good chance we’ll be moving at least some of them by the end of the week,” said Navy Cmdr. Mark Rozzell, who leads vaccine operations for DLA Distribution.
Pfizer vaccines for the 5- to 11-age group are smaller doses than those given to other age groups and can be shipped at either 2- to 8-degrees Celsius or minus 90- to minus 60-degree Celsius. DLA will ship at 2- to 8-degree Celsius and include ancillary kits with smaller syringes and needles for administering the vaccine to children.
Rozzell said challenges like customs clearance and identifying which locations can receive and further distribute the vaccine have already been overcome through DLA’s distribution of the adult Pfizer vaccine.
“We also have well-defined cold-chain management practices in place and strong cold-chain support through the medical team at DLA Troop Support,” he added. “DLA Troop Support has done an outstanding job coordinating with the MTFs to ensure the vaccines are delivered at the proper temperature in addition to being properly stored.”
The agency has so far shipped 844,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for DOD employees stationed outside the continental U.S. and the deployed U.S. Navy Fleet. It began shipping vaccines mid-May for OCONUS 12- to 17-year-olds.
Even after 10 months of vaccine shipments, the agency shipped over 5,700 adult doses during the week of Oct. 25. Though some of those were booster shots, many were for employees aiming to meet the Nov. 22 deadline for federal employees to be fully vaccinated, said Army Col. Anthony Bostick, DLA Headquarters’ vaccination distribution lead.
“At the same time, MTFs are ordering flu vaccines. We’re shipping those and providing 13 other vaccines, which include flu and coronavirus vaccines for Afghan refugees,” he said.
DLA Distribution staff is prepared to handle first and second doses for children while continuing to support adult COVID-19 vaccines, boosters and the flu vaccine, Rozzell added.
“The vaccine mission isn’t going away any time soon because studies are showing these vaccines wane over time whether it’s the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson and Johnson version,” Bostick continued. “It’ll probably become another annual vaccination just like we have with the flu, which we’ve been doing successfully for over 20 years.”
An FDA advisory committee recommended FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine for kids Oct. 27. The FDA could authorize the vaccine later this week and is expected to be followed early next week by a recommendation from the CDC.