While the bulk of senior military leaders will receive the vaccine after medical personnel, a select few will receive it in the earliest phase.
“We do intend as part of this initial phase of healthcare workers, emergency responders, etcetera, have some very small set of very visible leaders that will volunteer to take the vaccine, do it in a public way as one way of helping to message the safety and efficacy and underscore that we are encouraging all those eligible personnel to take the vaccine,” Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, Thomas McCaffery, announced Wednesday.
“Right now we would be looking at current senior leaders, the top four,” he added, listing Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, Deputy Secretary David Norquist, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten, and the senior enlisted adviser would receive the vaccine in the earliest phase to help convince Department if Defense personnel that the vaccine is safe.
Officials said there were no current plans to offer the vaccine to President-elect Joe Biden’s designate for Defense secretary, retired Gen. Lloyd Austin.
The Pentagon is expected to receive 44,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the coming days.
“Of those 44,000 a huge majority will be for first responders, critical healthcare people and a very very limited number to critical national capabilities in this first tranche,” Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Place, the Defense Health Agency director said.
Senior leaders are considered “critical national capabilities” by the Pentagon.
The vaccine “is voluntary for everyone” Place said, due to it being expected to only receive emergency use authorization from the FDA, while adding that “the Department is strongly encouraging everyone to take it,” Place said.