US military leaders said Thursday that recent problems with the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine have made it more difficult to provide shots for forces overseas, and that vaccines have been offered to service members' families or other Tier 2 beneficiaries in only 40% of the military sites outside the US. Speaking at a Pentagon press conference, they said they are making up for the Johnson & Johnson shortfall by shipping more Moderna vaccines to forces outside the country. The temperature and other requirements for the Pfizer vaccine make it more difficult to send overseas. Johnson & Johnson had to discard 15 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine last month because the batch did not met quality standards. The loss in expected vaccines was a greater problem for the military, the AP reports, because it had targeted the Johnson & Johnson shot for distribution overseas since it only requires one dose and doesn't need the strict temperature controls that others do.
Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Place, director of the Defense Health Agency, told reporters that based on President Biden's latest guidance for all adults, vaccines will be offered to all eligible troops, family members, and other beneficiaries beginning by April 19. Some troops and their families overseas have expressed frustration at their inability to get a vaccine, particularly since many are in areas, including around Europe, that have been hit hard by the pandemic. Place said that in many locations, the vaccines are still being offered only to Tier 1 individuals, including troops who are deployed, health care or emergency workers, and beneficiaries 65 and older. He added that while just 7% of the eligible Defense Department population is outside the US, the Pentagon is shipping 14% of the doses it gets overseas. Still, for service members or their families overseas who haven't been vaccinated or told when they will be, "these numbers mean nothing," Place said. "And it's understandably frustrating."
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