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Feature   Defense News

Army Medical Logistics Takes Lead for Military COVID-19 Vaccine Orders

Dec. 10, 2020 | BY Ellen Crown

Medical logistics experts at the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency have started receiving COVID-19 vaccine orders from throughout the Defense Department in anticipation of the Food and Drug Administration's emergency use authorization of a vaccine or multiple vaccines.

USAMMA, which reports directly to Army Medical Logistics Command, is the lead for all services, working in collaboration with the Defense Health Agency's Immunization Health Care Division.

A female officer receives a vaccine.
Flu Vaccine
Army Capt. Jenna Vercollone, from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 40th Brigade Engineer Battalion based in Fort Bliss, TX., receives a flu vaccine at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Oct. 31, 2020. The vaccination was part of a readiness campaign to equip service members to combat the flu.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Khylee Woodford
VIRIN: 201031-A-FS682-427M

The USAMMA team is collecting COVID-19 vaccine orders from all service branches and submitting them to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

USAMMA will also track vaccine shipments from the vendor to each military site. If required, the team will monitor the redistribution of vaccines to additional sites throughout the military.

USAMMA Distribution Operations Center Deputy Director Liz Andrews said the vaccine will ship directly from the vendor to several military medical treatment facilities throughout the U.S. — where it will be used to immunize troops, as well as military beneficiaries — and bolster their immunity against the pandemic.

There are known logistical challenges. For example, at least one of the vaccine candidates has to be kept at ultra-cold temperatures of minus-80 degrees Celsius.

Two people look at a computer screen to make updates.
Computer Work
Distribution Operations Center Director Air Force Lt. Col. Todd Reeder receives an update from DOC Deputy Director Liz Andrews on the progress of the COVID-19 ordering system as the team receives COVID-19 vaccine orders from throughout the Defense Department, Dec. 4, 2020. In anticipation of the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization of a vaccine or multiple vaccines, the USAMMA team is collecting COVID-19 vaccine orders from all service branches and submitting them to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Photo By: Ellen Crown
VIRIN: 201204-A-QL922-0001M

Andrews said she and her team will not only track the vaccine's movements, but also its temperature throughout shipment to ensure it arrives safe and ready for use.  

"This is a challenging mission but also very exciting," Andrews said. "We are prepared to execute this mission and proud to be a part of Operation Warp Speed."

Operation Warp Speed, of which the Army's senior logistician Gen. Gustave F. Perna is the chief operating officer, is a public-private partnership developed to deliver safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.

In a Defense.gov press release, Perna said he is committed to streamlining processes that will allow manufacturing and distribution to deliver medical countermeasures at an unprecedented rate.

The USAMMA team is uniquely equipped for the mission because of their expertise in vaccine distribution and cold chain management. USAMMA currently serves as the service lead for ordering and distribution of other military vaccines, such as anthrax and smallpox.

A soldier vaccinates another soldier.
Flu Shot
Army Lt. Col. Harold Yu, command surgeon at Area Support Group - Kuwait, administers a flu shot to a soldier during a flu shot campaign facilitated by Area Support Group - Kuwait.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Khylee Woodford
VIRIN: 201031-A-FS682-838M

"The military hospitals are already used to working with us, so this made the process smoother for them as they were familiar with our systems and forms," Andrews said.

Andrews also said the USAMMA Distribution Operations Center web development team also played a crucial role by swiftly adapting USAMMA's existing vaccine ordering system, so it could be used for COVID-19 vaccine order processing.

"This was a total team effort," she added, "and we are just honored to be a part of this whole-of-government campaign.""

(Ellen Crown is assigned to the U.S. Army Medical Logistics Command.)