The Pentagon has approved 20 more military teams, a combined total of 4,700 service members, to help the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administer COVID-19 vaccines across the country.
Following last week’s approval of five such teams, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin authorized an additional 20 to support FEMA at vaccination mega-sites and smaller locations, top Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Friday. The 20 will be broken up into 10 teams of 222 personnel supporting mega-vaccination sites and 10 teams of 139 personnel helping at smaller ones.
All the teams, largely made up of active duty forces, will be sent out “as requirements evolve.” The Pentagon last week announced that it had authorized an initial 1,100 active-duty service members to help FEMA at five state vaccination sites, a response to the agency’s request to the Defense Department in late January to assist with the Biden administration’s 100 million people vaccinated in the first 100 days goal.
Of the first five teams approved, only one has been announced and deployed, a team from Fort Carson, Col., that arrived in Los Angeles to support a vaccination mega-hub. Kirby said the team expects to be up and running by Monday. He added that the Pentagon will soon have more information as to where the other four teams will be sent, but that it is a complicated process that requires coordination with local and state authorities.
“We don’t want to move too fast so that we’re overwhelming the process or the system,” Kirby said. The Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security, of which FEMA is a part, in the past several weeks have discussed how the military can assist the agency with President Biden’s ambitious goal of vaccinating 1.5 million people per day in the coming weeks.
Possible solutions broached include sending up to 100 teams of active-duty and National Guard forces — a total of 10,000 troops — to vaccination sites
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