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Defense Logistics Agency ready to ship COVID-19 vaccine overseas

Crystal Tyler, pharmacy technician, prepares an injection for an Operation Warp Speed patient volunteer at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Nov. 16, before the Food and Drug Administration's emergency use authorization of the first COVID-19 vaccine. Photo by Jason W. Edwards/U.S. Army
Crystal Tyler, pharmacy technician, prepares an injection for an Operation Warp Speed patient volunteer at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Nov. 16, before the Food and Drug Administration's emergency use authorization of the first COVID-19 vaccine. Photo by Jason W. Edwards/U.S. Army

Dec. 17 (UPI) -- The Defense Logistics Agency announced Thursday that it's ready to ship COVID-19 vaccine doses to Defense Department employees outside the continental U.S.

According to the Pentagon, the DLA has been working with Operation Warp Speed and Defense Health Agency officials to develop a plan for delivering the vaccine as it becomes available.

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According to Army Col. Anthony Bostick, who leads DLA's Operation Warp Speed operational planning team, the DLA will adapt some of the practices it uses to deliver the annual flu vaccine, which it has done for 20 years.

"In some aspects, storage and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine is pretty similar to what we've been doing all along with the flu vaccine, and DLA has had great success getting that to DOD employees around the world," Bostick said.

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The DLA has increased its refrigerated storage space and will be able to maintain almost 19 million doses of the 35.6-to-46.4 Fahrenheit vaccine and the -4 Fahrenheit vaccine before shipping products.

The agency has not been asked to distribute the -112 Fahrenheit vaccine, Bostick said, but has developed some plans to provide support for distribution if necessary.

DLA Distribution manages six U.S.-based and four overseas centers that can handle cold-chain items and began training additional employees in cold-chain management processes in June, according to Bob Garrettson of DLA Distribution's special commodities team.

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"We've been involved in very detailed, intense planning with DHA and other key players to make sure there's a coordinated response that gets the vaccine exactly where it's needed, and we have contingency plans in place in case they're needed," he said.

DLA has been involved in the nation's pandemic response since February and has provided more than $2.5 billion in supplies ranging from face masks and ventilators to test kits, the Pentagon said.

At the beginning of Dec. 3 Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday said the Navy would prioritize "people likely to come in contact with people who are infected" for the vaccine rollout, and on Dec. 9 the Pentagon released its plan for distributing the vaccine within the Defense Department.

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That plan echoes Centers for Disease Control recommendations that healthcare providers be prioritized, with personnel preparing to be deployed following.

As of Thursday the Department of Defense had reported 143,641 cumulative cases of coronavirus, with 94,644 in the military, 25,363 amond civilian DoD employees, 14,824 among dependents and 8,810 among military contractors.

Of those, 157 have died, 2,143 have been hospitalized and 84,555 have recovered.

On Nov. 30, the Pentagon reported 117,736 total cases of the novel coronavirus since March, with 79,020 among the military, 19,770 among civilian DoD employees, 11,721 among DoD dependents and 7,225 among contractors.

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