Department of Defense Leaders Update Reporters on DOD COVID-19 Efforts > U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE > Transcript

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STAFF: Hiya, everybody, joyful Thursday.

Q: Yeah, joyful Thursday.

STAFF: In order you all ought to know by now, we’re focusing in the present day’s press briefing on the division’s efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. And in keeping with these efforts, in the present day, Deputy Secretary Hicks, and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Workers, Hyten, launched a memo on, quote, “strategies to allow and encourage vaccination in opposition to COVID-19,” quote.

To talk about this and the division’s efforts — broader efforts to defeat COVID-19, we’ve got two acquainted particular visitors with us right here in the present day: Performing Assistant Secretary of Well being Affairs Dr. Terry Adirim, and Lieutenant Normal Ron Place, the director of the Protection Well being Company.

They’ll ship opening remarks after which we’ll take a couple of moderated questions. So, with that, welcome them to the stage.

ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE DR. TERRY ADIRIM: Thanks.

All proper, good afternoon everyone, thanks for becoming a member of us right here in the present day and thanks for all of the vital work you do speaking with our troops and their households. Normal Place and I are going to transient you in the present day on DOD’s efforts to fight COVID-19.

DOD is constant to play a key position in supporting the whole-of-government method to defeating COVID, together with supporting vaccination of our fellow Individuals whereas making certain our personal inhabitants is vaccinated.

Thus far, we have administered over 3.3 million doses to eligible DOD personnel with 58 % of our active-duty service members having had a minimum of one dose. Notice that one month in the past, after we opened vaccination to all, we have been solely at 37 % of energetic responsibility service members receiving one dose, so we’re making good, regular progress.

I additionally wish to notice that our active-duty and Nationwide Guard have, thus far, administered over 15 million doses of vaccines, and we thank them for his or her exhausting work in advancing vaccination throughout the nation.

Because the begin of the COVID-19 pandemic, DOD has had practically 300,000 circumstances, simply over 4,000 hospitalizations, and sadly 351 deaths. These are whole numbers that embody our navy service members, their dependents, civilians and contractors.

It is also vital to notice that COVID-19 an infection incidents and testing positivity charges for DOD personnel are decrease than for the civilian inhabitants, which is an indication that our drive well being safety measures are working.

With final month’s increasing of eligibility of vaccination to all DOD service members, personnel and beneficiaries, the division has redoubled its efforts to encourage everybody to get vaccinated. The truth is, as Jamal talked about, the deputy secretary and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Workers issued a memo in the present day to senior leaders that reaffirms the significance of vaccination and identifies the instruments for efficient vaccine encouragement.

These instruments are already in widespread use by the providers, however this memo highlights their significance. This memo focuses on 4 areas that embody: rising accessibility to vaccine, offering alternatives for schooling, leveraging energetic responsibility personnel insurance policies to advertise vaccination, and making certain engagement on the lowest degree to acknowledge and deal with particular person issues.

We’re trustworthy and up-front in acknowledging the division is confronting lots of the similar challenges that the remainder of America is in maximizing vaccine acceptance. We’re utilizing each software doable to extend vaccination, and we’ll proceed to take action from the secretary to essentially the most junior chief.

Final week, in accordance with the CDC issuing new steering on masking, the division introduced that totally vaccinated DOD personnel can safely take part in most actions and are now not required to put on a masks indoors or outdoor at most DOD amenities.

Unvaccinated personnel, nonetheless, ought to proceed carrying masks as required by relevant DOD coverage to guard themselves and others who haven’t been totally vaccinated. To that finish, we’re updating our drive well being safety steering to align with this CDC steering on masking, whereas making certain that masks proceed for use in applicable settings.

We all know our combat in opposition to COVID-19 is not over but, however the CDC’s announcement underscores the truth that these vaccines work: they defend the recipient and their relations, and can allow us to get again to regular.

And lastly, as you are conscious, the FDA lately expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to incorporate adolescents 12 and above. We began transport this vaccine OCONUS on Could 14th, in anticipation of this choice, and there will probably be sufficient vaccine in place for first and second doses for all our abroad adolescent inhabitants.

This authorization and our administration of vaccines to our adolescents is one other vital step in our combat in opposition to COVID-19. DOD is dedicated to vaccinating all of our eligible adolescents, and I will now flip it over to Normal Place who will converse extra in depth about these points.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL RONALD J. PLACE: Certain. Thanks, Dr. Adirim.

And good afternoon to all of you, right here and on the telephone.

I will briefly develop on Dr. Adirim’s remarks relating to our vaccination attain. As she talked about, as of this morning, 58 % of the active-duty drive has obtained a minimum of one dose and 44 % are totally vaccinated. That quantity continues to extend on daily basis. Senior commanders, navy medical leaders, fellow service members and relations are all contributing to the elevated vaccination price.

As Dr. Adirim additionally famous relating to the emergency use authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds, final week, we started transport the Pfizer vaccine to our help — to help our abroad adolescent group, and people vaccinations even have already begun. We proceed to ship the vaccine to many installations in the US as nicely that didn’t but have the Pfizer vaccine.

For these navy installations that — in the US that do not have the Pfizer vaccine, we’re encouraging beneficiaries to acquire their vaccines from native civilian suppliers, pharmacies, or different shops. Now that we have moved from a supply-constrained setting to a desire-constrained setting, we do not anticipate any challenges with entry to vaccine in both the navy or civilian settings.

As Dr. Adirim additionally famous, our case charges and hospitalization charges are nicely under civilian charges. As of this morning, we’ve got 29 inpatients in navy hospitals worldwide which are COVID-positive.

I’d level out that our hospitalizations are on the lowest quantity throughout the division since June twelfth of 2020, and solely barely greater than they have been in early June. The bottom quantity that we’ve got consolidated data of was on June seventh: twenty-one inpatients; one other indication of the diploma to which the vaccine is holding individuals wholesome and out of the hospital.

As a navy drive, we proceed to study and adapt our methods to fight this illness. Earlier this week, I hosted a gathering with our allies and accomplice nations, navy medical forces to raised perceive efficient approaches when it comes to each therapy and vaccinations. I am grateful for the contributions and collaboration of so many medical professionals all through the US and internationally.

Lastly, one other thanks to our service members and different DOD personnel who’ve chosen to get vaccinated and to — and proceed to encourage their fellow service members, relations and associates to do the identical as nicely.

Thanks once more for becoming a member of us in the present day, I look ahead to your questions.

STAFF: Thanks very a lot.

First query, Megan?

Q: First, is the memo going to be despatched round or put up on Protection.gov? The memo —

STAFF: The memo ought to be on Protection.gov proper now.

Q: Good. Different query, about lifting of the masks mandates — and doubtless for Normal Place. Whose accountability is it to take care of accountability in workplaces or in items for who’s vaccinated and who’s not, who ought to be carrying a masks and who does not must?

GEN. PLACE: Certain. That is chief enterprise, and so the place you are a member of a unit, in fact commanders’ enterprise. The place we’re civilian staff, then we use the suitable, , labor regulation or inner self-discipline, like we do for the 1000’s of laws and guidelines that we’ve got for on a regular basis enterprise. It is simply one other a kind of guidelines.

Q: For Dr. Adirim, what’s an instance of leveraging coverage to advertise vaccine (inaudible) charges —

DR. ADIRIM: Certain.

Q: — (inaudible)

 

DR. ADIRIM: Certain. Our commanders have vast authority to make use of personnel coverage. So, for instance, one coverage that’s not essentially a commander, however one of many insurance policies, people who find themselves vaccinated shouldn’t have to quarantine pre- and post-travel. However if you happen to’re not vaccinated, you continue to should. That is an instance of 1 coverage.

With regard to what commanders have management over, they’ve management over depart, to allow them to give liberal depart, for instance, to those that get vaccinated.

STAFF: Subsequent query, we’ll take one by the telephone. Peter Loewi?

Q: Hello, thanks very a lot for doing this. I needed to ask about South Korean troops being provided the J&J vaccine. What different nations are being provided the vaccine by the U.S. navy, what different nations have requested for the vaccine by the navy, and have U.S. forces in Japan been requested or provided to vaccinate to arrange for the Olympics?

DR. ADIRIM: Do you wish to begin?

GEN. PLACE: Certain.

So similar to we do for all allied companions or different nations who’ve dialogue with the US, the coverage selections are made by the coverage decision-makers, led by the White Home and the President. Our job is to execute in opposition to these coverage selections. I’m at present unaware of any modifications in any coverage selections for us to execute in opposition to.

When it comes to the Olympics, ma’am, that is not one thing I do know something about.

DR. ADIRIM: Yeah. No, I’ve no consciousness of that. However as Normal Place stated, these are selections by policy-makers above our pay grade, and we’re not conscious of something that we’ve got been instructed to help right now, so.

STAFF: Nice. Subsequent query, Janne?

Q: Thanks. Physician, I’ve a query for you. The CDC has stopped monitoring breakthrough infections among the many vaccinated people. Now (inaudible) began — everyone, , has began to take off their masks. Are there any new pointers for the breakthrough infections for the CDC or the DOD?

DR. ADIRIM: We’re persevering with to check these people who’re symptomatic, simply as we’ve got earlier than. We’re additionally persevering with to check underneath our present drive well being safety steering, underneath these circumstances that we have to.

For instance, these people who usually are not vaccinated — I do know that wasn’t what you had requested, however — these people who usually are not vaccinated could should be examined earlier than journey. So we’re at present underneath our present drive well being safety pointers with regard to testing.

Q: So are you going to (inaudible) individuals dying due to that, , breakthrough an infection, that —

DR. ADIRIM: From vaccinated people?

Q: Sure, sure.

DR. ADIRIM: Proper. The vaccines are terribly secure. They — individuals are not dying from infections. The truth is, what the info and the science has proven us is that the vaccine prevents severe infections, hospitalizations and deaths. So —

GEN. PLACE: Ma’am, if I might even —

DR. ADIRIM: Yeah, go forward.

GEN. PLACE: — amplify that just a bit bit. So one of many selections that the Division of Protection made nearly a 12 months in the past was to activate a COVID-19 registry, which is a database primarily of all — all of our beneficiaries, all of our sufferers who’ve ever been examined constructive. And we even have the identical kind of database for everyone that we vaccinated. So despite the fact that the CDC is not requiring it, we nonetheless observe it.

So what I can let you know, as of the primary a part of this week, which is the final time I noticed the info, of the 1.5 million or so simply confirmed up who’re totally vaccinated, we have had 1,640-some — I do not bear in mind the precise quantity, once more it was earlier this week — however about 1,640, 1,650 that have been breakthroughs. Of these 1,650 or in order that have been breakthroughs, we have had 24 hospitalizations. Of these 24 hospitalizations, we’ve got had zero deaths.

So the Division does observe to that degree of element precisely what’s taking place to whom. The excellent news to all that — versus the — the 95 % or no matter charges that we’re seeing printed from the part 2 or part 3 scientific trials — if you happen to try this math, 99.9 % efficient for our beneficiaries of — of stopping breakthrough an infection, and 99.999 % efficient in stopping hospitalization and 100% in stopping demise.

Now, that is all-comers, proper?  So all vaccines. So that is the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna vaccine, and the J&J/Janssen vaccine. That is the info that I can a minimum of globally share with you that I observe because the director of the Protection Well being Company each week.

Q: Do you’ve gotten something information concerning the abroad troops they’ve concerned with the breakthrough infections, anyone? So if any —

(CROSSTALK)

GEN. PLACE: So — proper, in order that — that is — it is an important query. The numbers are too — too small. I imply, 1,640-some breakthrough infections is not a big sufficient quantity to have the ability to do regression evaluation and have a look at particular — particular components that will improve or lower dangers around the globe. It is simply not a large enough quantity. And that is a very good factor, proper? It is good that we do not have that many breakthroughs.

However — however after we discuss security and efficacy — particularly efficacy, that is why we maintain speaking about it throughout the Division, it is 99.9 % efficient in — in the neighborhood for us and 99.999 % efficient in stopping hospitalization. That is unimaginable.

Q: That is why CDC stopped monitoring. They do not do any extra this (inaudible) most likely. Thanks very a lot.

STAFF: Subsequent query, Caitlin?

Q: Sure, I needed to come back again to what you stated about transferring right into a desire-constrained setting. Are you able to speak somewhat bit extra — inform me what meaning?

GEN. PLACE: It means individuals who need it. So earlier than, it was provide. There was extra individuals who needed it than we had — had vaccine for. Now, primarily based on the rising manufacturing and people who actually, actually needed it, largely have gotten the vaccine and now it is individuals on the fence or individuals who, fairly frankly for no matter their private causes, have determined to not.

So to the purpose that Dr. Adirim was making is: how can we get that info house, how can we actually present individuals true information? It is one of many causes I am pounding somewhat bit exhausting on how efficient it has been in our group, as a result of I feel there’s lots of people who assume it isn’t an efficient vaccine. These vaccines — this suite of vaccines are extremely efficient.

So it is about how can we inform: what’s the actual choice that you simply’re making? So after I say desire-based it is what’s — what’s in it for me, proper? How do I see worth to this for me? Or how do I see this for a worth for my youngsters?

And one of many attention-grabbing issues that I feel that we’ll begin seeing is that some dad and mom with adolescent youngsters who need their youngsters vaccinated — the children are going to say, hey mother, hey dad, what about you? Are you vaccinated? And the embarrassing reply goes to be, in some circumstances a minimum of, no. Nicely, why not? After which what’s that going to do to that need a part of the equation. So it is all about that.

What are the boundaries? How shut am I to a vaccination website? How straightforward is it to get an appointment? All these issues are enhancing over time. And that is the kind of issues that I imply by a desire-constrained setting.

Q: Do you assume that the DOD’s choice to permit the masks to come back off for vaccinated people — have you ever seen a rise in that — the will to get vaccinated? And do you assume that that can have an impact in that space?

GEN. PLACE: Nicely, ma’am, I’ve a tough speculating on why individuals do what they do — and generally I do not know why I do what I do (Laughter).  However the period of time that that has modified has solely been a couple of days. And so we — we have been seeing a sluggish decrement within the — within the quantity of people that come to our vaccination websites over time. It is neither elevated nor decreased for the reason that — the deputy secretary modified the coverage for the Division late final week.

STAFF: Let’s return to the telephones. We’ve Patricia from Army.com.

Q: Hello, guys. Thanks for taking my query. I do know you are not monitoring vaccine declinations, however I am questioning when you’ve got a way in any respect of what number of service members could not ever get vaccinated and, , how you are going to deal with that. And — and are you planning for the FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine?

DR. ADIRIM: Okay, so I hear two questions in that. Hello, Patty. How are you? So the primary a part of it with — what was the primary a part of the query?

Q: It was about declinations and whether or not you are going to have a way of what number of service members could forgo the vaccine altogether.

DR. ADIRIM: No, we’re not monitoring declination, you are appropriate about that. However we’re a mirrored image of society. So I’d think about that these that could be — and we do not know the reply to this — like, refusing vaccination could mirror what we’re seeing out within the civilian sector.

That stated, there is not any plans right now to make vaccine necessary. If and when the FDA does license the vaccine we’ll decide at the moment.

 

STAFF: Subsequent query, Courtney?

 

Q: Only one follow-up on — I truly had the identical query. However if you happen to’re not taking the declinations I perceive that, however do you’ve gotten any sense of, like, kind of the demographics of who has not been vaccinated among the many — the uniform navy? Is there, like, a sure age rage that you simply’re specializing in or — or is there, like, a regional distinction? Like, people who find themselves stationed abroad perhaps are kind of prone to get it. Something like that which you can share on who’s not getting right now?

DR. ADIRIM: Sure. No, we do — we do have a few of that information.

GEN. PLACE: Sure, ma’am. So once more, if you happen to have a look at the demographics of America, that is the identical demographics who’re accepting the vaccination.

We’re discovering that — that whereas early on — and I feel we talked about it somewhat bit — after we have been in our phase-based schema we have been considerably involved about there was some disparity between demographics of who’s being vaccinated and what the demographics of the Division of Protection was. What we discovered now that we have gone by all of our phases of our schema, that the proportion by race, or the proportion by ethnicity, or the proportion by age, or the proportion by gender, it is usually the identical as what we’ve got within the Division.

So there is not any explicit demographic that makes you extra possible or much less possible, with a few exceptions. Our physicians are vaccinated at a very excessive price. Those that are over the age of 65 are vaccinated at a very excessive price. Those that are workers and explicit residents of the 2 Armed Forces Retirement Houses are vaccinated at terribly excessive charges —

DR. ADIRIM: Virtually 100%.

GEN. PLACE: — for instance.

So what we’re seeing and what we’re liable for seems an terrible lot like what the remainder of America seems like. If you happen to look abroad, however, each single one of many COCOMs is now vaccinated each partially and totally at charges which are greater than the US. And in some circumstances at extraordinary excessive charges.

DR. ADIRIM: And I’d add to that, I feel the rationale why we’re seeing it’s because like within the civilian sector you’ve gotten entry to points within the navy, particularly for our armed forces, we do not have that entry challenge. Proper? In order that they have equal entry amongst teams. So we’re simply not seeing the identical degree of disparities that we’re seeing within the civilian sector.

Q: Can I simply be clear, once you stated there is not any plans to make the vaccine necessary. However — but when they do — the FDA does approve full authorization or no matter for Pfizer, might you see there being a compulsory for sure components of the navy?

So the nuclear drive, individuals who have — like perhaps are in a science or like an instantaneous response drive or one thing, might you see that being carried out?

DR. ADIRIM: Sure, nicely, I can not speculate right now with regard to who — if and who could be — it will be necessary for. However simply perceive we mandate licensed vaccines for our uniformed service members routinely. So you possibly can think about that, , like different licensed vaccines, , we could think about it.

Q: Might be the entire drive then, not essentially even for a selected —

DR. ADIRIM: I can not — I can not, , make that conjecture now. If and when vaccines — these vaccines do grow to be licensed then we’ll decide at the moment.

GEN. PLACE: Subsequent query, Oren?

Q: Do you’ve gotten any up to date info on the prevalence of any of the COVID variants within the DOD inhabitants and what preparatory work are you doing in case there is a want for boosters?

GEN. PLACE: Certain. So we’ve got our personal entire genomic laboratories that we use. If you happen to have a look at the outcomes that we’re seeing in our laboratories each within the United State and around the globe, they give the impression of being similar to what you are seeing reported by different laboratories.

So when it comes to the numbers, the frequencies, et cetera, what we’re discovering in our labs is identical. And when it comes to boosters, I am not going to take a position once more on hypotheticals but when — if there’s some kind of proof that signifies that they are higher security, higher efficacy with three doses as a substitute of two, or a interval of the (inaudible) being at some interval like we do for our tetanus updates or these types of issues, that might be a licensing choice and as Dr. Adirim’s already talked about, we’re not going to get forward of any licensing selections however it’s threat primarily based choice making.

So totally licensed and good information, perhaps so or perhaps that — I am sorry Dr. Adirim — perhaps that as a result of COVID kind of wipes itself out and is not a difficulty anymore that from a threat primarily based state of affairs that it simply does not appear price it to vaccinate all of us due to the small however actual dangers that do come from vaccines.

DR. ADIRIM: Proper. And — and if that have been one thing that was decided to be essential, we routinely give vaccines to our service members. So give annual flu vaccines, for instance. So we might be prepared to try this if that got here to cross.

Q: However at this level there is not any must create a kind of a booster inventory pile or something like that? Am I deciphering that appropriately?

GEN. PLACE: I do not know what it would be. So once more, I hate to take a position on what may be and all of the branches and sequels that come out from the what may be. I’ll let you know similar to when — after I first talked about this with Secretary McCaffery again in December, proper, we’re utilizing the entire laydown of — of our mass vaccination protocol that we use yearly for influenza as this.

We might use the identical types of issues for any mass vaccination protocol whether or not it is influenza, boosters, or the rest. We’ve the help in place.

STAFF: Abraham?

Q: Sure, thanks. Normal Place, there’s been speak for a very long time about these of us who turned down the vaccine, proper? After which all these efforts to succeed in out to them repeatedly and a few are beginning to get it, proper?

So does it even matter at this level because you’re rising within the degree in those that have been vaccinated that you simply go after them so aggressively to get vaccinated? Are you reaching some kind of herd immunity within the navy?

GEN. PLACE: Nicely, the truth that we’re nonetheless having infections each single day within the tons of and the truth that we nonetheless have 20 — 29 individuals within the hospital, that is 29 too many within the hospital. That is a number of hundred greater than ought to be having a prognosis each single day. So no, I do not assume we have reached some extent the place our efforts must cease.

Our efforts cease after we’ve eradicated individuals dying from this illness. We — our efforts cease after we’ve eradicated individuals being admitted to the hospital for this. And our efforts cease when it stops being a unfavourable side to the best way that commanders do commander enterprise.

So I do not assume we’re near that but. In order that’s why the efforts at each degree of the Division are nonetheless right here.

Q: Thanks.

Q: Do you (inaudible) something concerning the vaccine swap with South Korea? Do you’ve gotten something for —

GEN. PLACE: As I already talked about, the coverage choice makers will resolve what — what insurance policies there are. I am not conscious of any selections however have been made out of a coverage perspective. Proper now we’re executing vaccines to our service members and all of our different beneficiaries. So in any other case, I am not conscious of something.

STAFF: Do we’ve got any additional questions? Another from Abraham.

Q: Sure, was there any remark that you simply guys might make about FEMA vaccinations websites and the way these are administered.

DR. ADIRIM: Sure, positive. I did point out that they’re nonetheless energetic they’re nonetheless supporting the FEMA mission at websites in a lot of states and we’ll proceed that mission so long as FEMA believes that they require our help.

As websites have determined that they do not want them anymore, we could transfer them to different websites the place they could be wanted and a few could also be returning house. However we anticipate that there are about eight weeks.

And in the event that they have to be re-upped for one more 4 weeks, we try this however we try this site-by-site and dealing with FEMA to find out what they require for help.

Q: (Inaudible) main standing down of this at FEMA vaccination websites but or not fairly?

DR. ADIRIM: Not at — not right now. However (inaudible), these are a part of the discussions about what is required by the states and FEMA makes that willpower and we help, so.

Q: Good. Thanks.

STAFF: All proper. Nicely, thanks all so very a lot and a particular because of Lieutenant Normal Place and Dr. Terry Adirim. Thanks.

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