last updated Jan. 15, 2021 12:15 PM EDT
As the Defense Department assists in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it's also important to help distinguish between rumors and facts.
Rumors can easily circulate within communities during a crisis, and we can stop the spread of disinformation by always choosing trusted sources of information such as:
State and local government official websites or social media accounts are also good sources for instruction and information specific to your community. Check out the myth-busting section below to separate fact from fiction.
Myth: COVID-19 vaccines will be mandatory for service members as soon as they are made available, effectively using our military as "guinea pigs."
Fact: Any COVID19 vaccine that becomes available under pre-licensure status, such as an FDA emergency use authorization (EUA), will be voluntary for service members, though highly encouraged for priority populations. Once formally licensed by the FDA, a vaccine may become mandatory for military personnel, as is the case for the influenza vaccine. See current DoD COVID-19 vaccine guidance
Myth: Now that vaccines are becoming available, I no longer need to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on wearing a mask and social distancing.
Fact: The intent of the vaccine is to prevent the spread of COVID 19. In accordance with current DOD policy, 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 it and COVID-19 pandemic risks will continue. DOD will continue to recommend wearing masks and practicing physical distancing, for everyone, until pandemic risk of COVID-19 is substantially reduced.
Myth: If I already had COVID-19, I don't need to get the vaccine.
Fact: Everyone should voluntarily receive the vaccine when it is available to them because duration of immunity following COVID-19 infection is unknown, and the vaccine may be effective in protecting previously infected people.
Myth: DOD isn't being transparent about the number of personnel who have been infected with COVID-19.
Fact: Starting June 8, DOD began posting COVID numbers on the Defense.gov Coronavirus page and plans to do so as long as this crisis continues. Information about the current rate of national vaccine distribution can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. DOD remains committed to informing the American public and will continue to evaluate the need to report COVID numbers based on conditions.
As people around the world confront this growing crisis, and out of a concern for operations security with regard to readiness, DOD will not report the aggregate number of service member cases at individual units, bases or combatant commands.
Myth: The U.S. Military has been slow to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak and should be doing more to support the civilian response.
Fact: DOD must balance safeguarding our national security with assisting the whole of government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Protecting service members ensures they are able to support DOD's primary mission of defending the homeland while also responding to the nation's crisis. DOD issued Force Protection Guidance for the Novel Coronavirus Outbreak on January 30 to ensure our service members and their families, as well as our civilians and contract employees, take proper health precautions to protect themselves and others.
DOD is focused on providing military manpower and equipment – both capacity and capability – to state and local authorities to help combat COVID-19. U.S. Northern Command, in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is leading the DOD response to COVID-19 efforts in the continental United States and has confronted the pandemic head-on since the virus outbreak, collaborating with interagency partners to strengthen our collective defense against the virus and save American lives. In late January, DOD began supporting the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to help house the first groups of civilians evacuated from overseas in requested military facilities, and on March 9, DOD began housing American passengers of the Grand Princess cruise ship at installations in California, Texas and Georgia.
To safeguard DOD personnel and slow the spread of COVID-19 between different communities, DOD implemented travel restrictions on March 11, which included all forms of official travel, including permanent change of station, temporary duty, and government-funded leave. DOD deployed the USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort to Los Angeles and New York and established the largest hospital in the United States at the Javits Center with 2,500 beds. More than 800 alternate care facilities throughout the U.S. have been assessed and numerous construction projects are underway to assist with the overflow of patients in those hard hit areas. In addition, DOD has activated over 45,000 National Guardsmen, and 15,000 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are engaged in response efforts. DOD continues to support DHHS and FEMA with equipment and capabilities, including making available personal protection equipment and other medical supplies to agencies responding to the COVID-19 outbreak.
See the complete DOD COVID-19 response timeline at the DOD Response Timeline.
Myth: U.S. service members visiting China were the source of the coronavirus outbreak.
Fact: The Department of Defense, along with senior U.S. Administration officials, has repeatedly denounced the Chinese government's efforts to deflect responsibility for downplaying the threat early on, as well as its lack of transparency during the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak, as being irresponsible and unhelpful with combating the pandemic the world is facing today.
Myth: Only elderly patients will qualify to get the vaccine in the initial phase since they are at the highest risk for developing severe illness from COVID-19.
Fact: Service members and other eligible DoD health care beneficiaries, as well as selected other-than-U.S. forces (OTUSF) populations, such as DoD civilian employees and specified contractor employees are authorized to receive vaccines provided by the DoD. The Department will focus initial COVID-19 vaccination efforts on health care workers, emergency, services personnel, personnel performing activities associated with critical national capabilities, select deploying individuals, other critical and essential support personnel, and high-risk individuals prior to vaccinating other healthy individuals. DHA, in coordination with the Military Departments and other interested DoD Components, will refine specific vaccination requirements for these populations as part of vaccine implementation planning. See current DoD COVID-19 vaccine guidance
Myth: DoD is directly delivering COVID-19 vaccines to the American people.
Fact: Operation Warp Speed (OWS) is a joint effort of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Defense (DoD). OWS is facilitating vaccine distribution to the American public. Vaccine distribution will be executed in phases by the federal government, the 64 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) jurisdictions, industry partners, and other entities.
HHS and CDC lead planning and implementation while DoD's role is primarily planning staff augmentation and execution oversight in conjunction with and in support of the CDC. Any DoD required logistical support would be by exception and consistent with support of state responses during Defense Support to Civil Authorities.
Myth: COVID-19 has decreased DOD's readiness and ability to defend against adversaries exploiting this crisis.
Fact: The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the great global challenges of our time. Protecting our people has remained a DOD priority from the start. We must take prudent measures to limit COVID-19's spread, while also ensuring our service members are ready to defend the nation. As we aggressively respond to the outbreak, DOD remains prepared to carry out our core national security mission and essential functions. We will not hesitate to modify our security posture around the world whenever necessary. We will ensure our forward deployed troops receive the support and resources needed to accomplish their missions. We are confident that we are able to presently employ our forces at the current readiness levels without degradation. At the same time, we will continue to support the whole-of-nation response to the coronavirus, protecting our service members and their families as well as DOD civilians, contractors, and Americans.
Myth: There is no mechanism in place for companies who would like to volunteer their services to DOD to help with the COVID-19 effort.
Fact: There are several resources for companies that wish to donate or sell medical supplies needed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. To see the different options and other important information about the DOD's response to COVID-19 and the acquisition process visit the DOD Industrial Policy page.
Latest Guidance and Information
The Defense Department is working closely with the Department of Health and Human Services and the State Department to provide support in dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.
The Department of Defense provides the military forces needed to deter war and ensure our nation's security.