Active duty military personnel will soon start assisting vaccination sites in states across the U.S., the White House announced on Friday.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has approved a Federal Emergency Management Agency request to “augment and expedite” the country’s vaccination rollout, senior coronavirus adviser Andy Slavitt said at a press briefing. Part of the first contingent of more than 1,000 troops will arrive in California over the next 10 days and begin operations around Feb. 15, he added, with more missions to follow.
“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,” Slavitt said.
The Department of Defense is expected to provide more details at a separate briefing on Friday afternoon.
The move is what Slavitt characterized as part of the Biden administration’s “whole of government” approach to combating the coronavirus pandemic, in which the vaccine plays a crucial role.
President Biden has pledged to distribute 100 million vaccine doses in his first 100 days in office. The U.S. is already meeting the target pace of 1 million doses a day, and Biden said recently he may up that to 1.5 million.
The administration’s plans for ramping up the vaccine rollout include expanding eligibility criteria, increasing vaccine supply, hiring a vaccination workforce, launching a public education campaign and standing up more vaccination sites.
As part of that effort, Biden said FEMA would help set up 100 mass vaccination sites in his first month in office. FEMA has asked the Pentagon to ready up to 10,000 troops to support those sites, with the goal of dispensing 450,000 vaccinations a day nationwide.
Slavitt also announced at the briefing that the Biden administration is finalizing contracts with six more companies to increase the supply of at-home coronavirus tests.