The Department of Defense COVID-19 vaccine plan involves a standardized and coordinated strategy for prioritizing, distributing, and administering COVID-19 vaccines through a phased approach to vaccinate all Active component, Reserve component, TRICARE Prime and TRICARE Select beneficiaries, retirees, and select DoD civilians and contract personnel authorized to receive immunizations from DoD.
The vaccine is voluntary at this time. Initial quantities of the vaccine are limited and will be distributed on a rolling delivery basis as more vaccines becomes available. You can find more information about DoD’s phased approach in the phases/local timeline section below.
COVID-19 vaccines are being developed as quickly as possible, and processes and procedures are in place to ensure the vaccine is safe and effective. Vaccines are only available after they are:
To hear the experiences of someone who received the vaccine, click the two links below. Col. (Dr.) Ryan Mihata, 86th Medical Group Commander, documented how he felt 24 hours and 48 hours after vaccination:
24 hours post administration
48 hours post administration
For more information about the safety of the vaccines, view the vaccine safety section below.
Ramstein's Medical Clinic is one of 28 Military Treatment Facilities in Europe that has received initial shipments of COVID-19 vaccines. For more information, view the vaccination sites section below.
The allocation and distribution of the vaccine is based on a phased prioritization. Ramstein Air Base has been able to vaccinate those designated for Phase 1a (first responders, frontline medics, etc.); and has started to expand eligibility to personnel who fall into Phase 1b. This phase includes categories such as deploying members, Child Development Center staff, DoDEA staff members and food handlers on Ramstein. Eligible members will be notified by their leadership. Please be aware that this information is specific to Ramstein; other installations in the area may be in a different distribution phase.
When the time comes for the larger distribution of the vaccine to the healthy population, all eligible personnel are encouraged to take the vaccine to protect their health, their families and our community.
COVID-19 vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. Getting vaccinated is one of many steps you can take to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
The U.S. vaccine safety system ensures that all vaccines are as safe as possible. Safety is a top priority while federal partners work to make a COVID-19 vaccine(s) available.
In public health emergencies, such as the current pandemic, the vaccine development process may be atypical. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) has authorized the use of a COVID-19 vaccine after careful and rigorous testing and trials.
Investments and partnerships by the U.S. government have prioritized development and distribution of the most promising vaccines that have met the FDA’s rigorous and science-based standards for quality, safety, and effectiveness.
None of the factors that contributed to the accelerated development of a COVID-19 vaccine imply that safety, scientific or ethical integrity are compromised, or that short-cuts have been made. The COVID-19 vaccines have been rigorously tested, with clinical trials evaluating tens of thousands of study participants to generate the scientific data and other information needed by the FDA. To learn more about the U.S. COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials, including vaccines in earlier stages of development, visit clinicaltrials.gov.
Manufacturers are required to submit their raw data for the FDA to review. Safety, immune response, and efficacy data from the trial stages are submitted to the FDA before vaccines are authorized for use and distribution. The DoD has full confidence in the safety, transparency and efficacy in the latest COVID-19 vaccine(s) authorized by the FDA .
After vaccination, it is possible for some side effects to occur during the process of building immunity. These symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building immunity. Per FDA requirements, DoD will be monitoring and tracking vaccine reports of side effects through various surveillance activities both internal and external to the DoD.
The DoD remains committed to protecting service members, civilians, and families around the world.
In Europe, the initial DoD vaccine distribution is planned for 28 locations in nine countries. Ramstein's Medical Clinic is one of those locations and began inoculations Jan. 4. The initial shipment of vaccines are limited in quantity and administered through the DoD phased process.
To the greatest extent possible, beneficiaries in priority groups who are enrolled at Military Treatment Facilities (MTF) should come to the MTF to be vaccinated. This will ensure the maximum number of vaccine opportunities allocated to jurisdictions other than DoD are available for the non-DoD population. TRICARE beneficiaries who receive care at DoD MTFs on a space-available basis can alternately receive vaccine through the local civilian jurisdiction.
Personnel who receive care at host nation medical facilities are advised to contact their primary health care provider for information about the availability of a vaccination in the local community.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, a COVID-19 vaccine is an important tool in stopping the pandemic.
The vaccine will be offered on a voluntary basis due to its FDA emergency use authorization, but all eligible personnel are encouraged to receive the vaccine when it becomes available to protect their health, their families and our community.
When formally licensed by the FDA, the DoD may require a vaccine for military personnel or personnel in specific fields, as is the case for the influenza vaccine, but that has not been determined at this time.
For individuals who have already had the disease, the vaccine may have value in continuing to protect people because the duration of immunity from natural infection with COVID-19 is unknown. Early evidence suggests natural immunity from COVID-19 may not last very long, but the CDC says more studies are needed to better understand this. Talk with your provider if you have been previously infected with COVID-19.
Getting vaccinated is a personal choice for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Read more at the CDC site here.
COVID-19 vaccines will be given in a two-dose series separated by about four weeks.
You may have some side effects, which are normal signs that your body is building protection. These side effects may affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days.
Some common side effects include pain or swelling in the arm, and other mild symptoms like fever, chills, tiredness or headache.
Since mild symptoms are normal and expected, members who receive the vaccine and experience mild side effects should not call the COVID/Sick Hotline unless you feel the symptoms are severe. If you are experiencing an adverse reaction to the vaccine, you can self-report your symptoms by using the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System at www.vaers.hhs.gov. Registration with the V-Safe app provided by the CDC to monitor COVID-19 vaccine side effects is currently presenting issues for non-US residents, therefore we recommend using the VAERS until a solution for the V-Safe app becomes available.
After you complete the vaccination, it will still be necessary to wear cloth face coverings, maintain physical distancing and continue other hygiene measures until a large proportion of the population is vaccinated and the vaccine is proven to provide long-term protection. Global and national public health authorities are expected to continue to recommend wearing masks and practicing physical distancing, for everyone, until pandemic risk of COVID-19 is substantially reduced.
The 86th Medical Group will track COVID vaccine administration through existing medical record reporting systems.
COVID-19 vaccines are being developed as quickly as possible to face an unprecedented need, and we understand there may be some concern. To combat misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine, this list highlights some common myths associated with receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine will be mandatory.
Fact: The COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed on a voluntary basis, which is consistent with the normal process when a vaccine is first issued under Emergency Use Authorization. When formally licensed by the FDA, the DoD may require a vaccine for military personnel or personnel in specific fields, as is the case for the influenza vaccine, but that has not been determined at this time.
Source: DOD COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan transcript
Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine can give you COVID-19.
Fact: None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in the United States use the live virus that causes COVID-19. However, the goal for each of them is to teach our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. Sometimes this process can cause symptoms, such as fever. These symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building immunity. Learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine is too new or too rushed to be safe.
Fact: There are processes and procedures put into place to ensure the safety of any vaccine that is authorized for use. Vaccines for COVID-19 are only available after they are demonstrated to be safe and effective in large phase three clinical trials and authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Though the COVID-19 vaccine has been developed in record time, the development process was in-depth. See Operation Warp Speed for more information.
Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Myth: You do not have to wear a mask after you receive the COVID-19 vaccination.
Fact: The CDC recommends that during the pandemic people wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth when in contact with others outside your household, when in healthcare facilities, and when receiving any vaccine, including a COVID-19 vaccine. It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination. That means it’s possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and get sick. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection. It will still be necessary to wear cloth face coverings, maintain physical distancing and continue other hygiene measures until a large proportion of the population is vaccinated and the vaccine is proven to provide long-term protection. For more information, visit considerations for wearing masks.
Myth: I do not need to get the COVID-19 vaccine if I have already had COVID-19.
Fact: Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that re-infection with COVID-19 is possible, people may be advised to get a COVID-19 vaccine even if they have had the COVID-19 disease before. At this time, experts do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. The immunity someone gains from having an infection, called natural immunity, varies from person to person.
Myth: I can begin traveling once I receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Fact: You cannot immediately start traveling upon receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Host nation and installation guidance will still apply. Stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools available. It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination. That means it’s possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and get sick. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection. Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following CDC’s recommendations to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from COVID-19.
Myth: Vaccines approved through the Emergency Use Authorization are not safe.
Fact: Drugs and vaccines have to be approved by the FDA to ensure that only safe and effective products are available to the American public. During public health emergencies, when there is good scientific reason to believe that a product is safe and is likely to treat or prevent disease, the FDA may authorize its use through an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), even if definitive proof of the effectiveness of the drug or vaccine is not known. FDA pre-licensure approval is considered for treatment or prevention of diseases that are very serious, like COVID-19.
Myth: COVID-19 vaccine will alter your DNA.
Fact: COVID-19 vaccines are mRNA vaccines, which are a new type of vaccine to protect against infectious diseases. mRNA stands for messenger ribonucleic acid and can most easily be described as instructions for how to make a protein or even just a piece of a protein. mRNA is not able to alter or modify a person’s genetic makeup (DNA). The mRNA from a COVID-19 vaccine never enter the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA are kept. This means the mRNA does not affect or interact with our DNA in any way. Instead, COVID-19 vaccines that use mRNA work with the body’s natural defenses to safely develop protection (immunity) to disease. Learn more about how COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work.
Myth: The potential side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are too risky.
Fact: Most people will not have serious side effects after being vaccinated. Your arm may be sore, red, or warm to the touch. These symptoms usually go away on their own within a week. Some people report getting a headache or fever when getting a vaccine. These side effects are a sign that your immune system is doing exactly what it is supposed to do. It is working and building up protection to disease. See more here: What to Expect after a COVID-19 Vaccination
Myth: I don’t need the flu shot if I receive the COVID-19 vaccination.
Fact: The CDC believes it’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both be spreading at the same time. That means that getting a flu vaccine is more important than ever. A flu vaccine will not protect you from getting COVID-19, but it can prevent you from getting influenza (flu) at the same time as COVID-19. This can keep you from having a more severe illness.
Q. Is the COVID vaccine safe?
A. Yes. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration only authorizes the use of a COVID-19 vaccine after careful and rigorous testing and trials. The DoD has full confidence in the stringent regulatory process and requirements of the FDA, as well as the safety and efficacy of the vaccines.
Q. Can someone get COVID-19 from the vaccine?
A. No, it is not possible to get COVID-19 from vaccines. Vaccines against COVID-19 use inactivated virus, parts of the virus, or a gene from the virus. None of these can cause COVID-19.
Q. Who will be the first to get the vaccine?
A. Vaccination distribution prioritization will focus on those providing direct medical care, maintaining essential national security and installation functions, deploying forces, and those at the highest risk for developing severe illness from COVID-19, before other members of the DoD population.
Q. How will 86 MDG track personnel who receive a COVID vaccine?
A. The 86 MDG will track COVID vaccine administration through existing medical record reporting systems.
Q. I am a high-risk civilian/retiree who utilizes off-base providers. Can I visit a host nation physician for my vaccine?
A. Members eligible to receive the vaccine from either base or local providers can monitor both and are encouraged to get vaccinated as soon as their eligibility is announced. Distribution is happening in a phased approach across Germany and is managed by the state's Ministry of Health. The most current info can be found here (open in Google Chrome for an English translation).
Q. Should children get the vaccine?
A. The current vaccine trials have not studied the safety and efficacy for children and manufactures are not currently asking the FDA for authorization to vaccinate children
Q. If I already had COVID-19, should I still get a vaccine?
A. Yes, because duration of immunity following COVID-19 infection is unknown, and the vaccine may be effective in protecting previously infected people.
Q. Can I take the influenza vaccine at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine?
A. No, a vaccine for different diseases or illnesses (e.g. influenza) should be administered separately from the COVID-19 vaccine, at least 14 days apart.
Q. What is an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA)?
A. Drugs and vaccines have to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure that only safe and effective products are available to the American public. In situations when there is good scientific reason to believe that a product is safe and is likely to treat or prevent disease, the FDA may authorize its emergency use under specific circumstances. Vaccines authorized for emergency use are offered on a voluntary basis.
Q. Will DoD require all service members to receive the vaccine?
A. Not at this time. Currently the vaccine will be offered on a voluntary basis only due to its FDA emergency use authorization. Priority populations are highly encouraged to receive the vaccine. When formally licensed by the FDA, the DoD may require a vaccine for military personnel or personnel in specific fields, as is the case for the influenza vaccine, but that has not been determined at this time.
Q. Will TRICARE beneficiaries including military retirees have access to the vaccine?
A. Yes, based on DoD prioritization. While there is limited vaccine availability, vaccination distribution prioritization will focus on those providing direct medical care, maintaining essential national security and installation functions, deploying forces, and those beneficiaries at the highest risk for developing severe illness from COVID-19. TRICARE beneficiaries empaneled at a DoD Military Treatment Facility (MTF) are eligible to receive the vaccine at a DoD MTF. TRICARE beneficiaries who receive care at DoD MTFs on a space-available basis can alternately receive vaccine through their local civilian health care system, pending availability.
Q. Can U.S. members get the vaccination off base at a local provider or vaccination center?
A. Personnel who receive care at host nation medical facilities are advised to contact their primary health care provider for information about the availability of a vaccination in the local community. For beneficiaries who are enrolled at a Military Medical Treatment Facility (MTF), to the greatest extent possible, they should come to the MTF to be vaccinated.
Q. Will we still need to wear masks and practice physical distancing once a vaccine is available?
A. Yes. The intent of the vaccine is to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We will still need to wear cloth face covings and practice physical distancing to limit the spread of the virus. Additionally, we will not have enough vaccine initially to vaccinate everyone who wants the vaccine and COVID-19 pandemic risks will continue. We will continue to recommend wearing masks and practicing physical distancing, for everyone, until pandemic risk of COVID-19 is substantially reduced.
Q. Does getting the COVID-19 vaccine allow you to travel and avoid quarantine or other restrictions?
A. At this time, no. We will have to continue health protection measures, wearing face covering, keeping our distance, etc., even after people get vaccinated until a large majority of the population is vaccinated (or until host nation rules change).
Q. Why are military members in Europe receiving the Moderna vaccine, while military members in the United States are receiving the Pfizer vaccine?
A. Vaccines are shipped from the states, and while both have shown to be effective in clinical trials, the Pfizer vaccine requires a much lower storage temperature which isn’t conducive to the long transit journey.
Q. Why is this a series shot? What changes from the 1st to 2nd dose?
A. The second dose is for the body’s immune system to get a second look at the vaccine protein that resembles the virus. Just like reading material twice for an exam can help you remember, it is the same for our immune system. In order to be fully effective, both doses of the vaccine must be taken as prescribed. The Moderna vaccine requires patients to wait 24-28 days after receiving the first dose before they get the second dose. The period between doses for other varieties of the vaccine may differ.
Q. Individuals are being asked whether or not they have any autoimmune disorders. What autoimmune disorders are cause for concern with the COVID vaccine?
A. Autoimmune disorders should not prevent individuals from receiving the vaccine. If you have concerns, please contact your PCM. We also have providers at the vaccination line to answer specific questions you may have.
Q. Are teachers being considered in the initial phases of the vaccine distribution plan?
A. DoDEA teachers and Air Force Child and Youth Services personnel fall under Phase 1b3 of the distribution plan.
Q. Will people with allergies be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
A. The only contraindication would be for those allergic to a component of the vaccine; discuss with your provider if you are concerned about allergies.
Q. What conditions are considered high-risk of COVID-19?
A. The CDC outlines a list of conditions which are considered high-risk on their site here.
Click the graphic to see who gets the COVID-19 vaccine first. *A zoom option will appear*