The Defense Logistics Agency is receiving, packing and shipping pediatric doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine overseas for children, ages 5 to 11, of Defense Department personnel.
Orders for 30,900 doses have already been placed by military treatment facilities in the U.S. European, Central and Indo-Pacific Commands. The vaccines are being packed and shipped from DLA Distribution Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, to 18 locations that have been processing vaccines since the agency began distributing them for older populations in December.
Pfizer vaccines for the 5 to 11 age group are smaller doses than those given to other ages and can be shipped at either 2 to 8 degrees Celsius or minus 90 to minus 60 degrees Celsius. DLA will ship at 2 to 8 degrees Celsius and include ancillary kits with smaller syringes and needles for administering the vaccine to children.
Navy Cmdr. Mark Rozzell, who leads vaccine operations for DLA Distribution, said challenges — including customs clearance and identifying which locations can receive and further distribute the vaccine — have already been overcome since DLA distributed the adult Pfizer vaccine.
"We also have well-defined, cold-chain management practices in place and strong cold-chain support through the medical team at DLA Troop Support," he added. "DLA Troop Support has done an outstanding job coordinating with the MTFs [military treatment facilities] to ensure the vaccines are delivered at the proper temperature in addition to being properly stored."
The agency has so far shipped 844,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for DOD employees stationed outside the continental U.S. and the deployed U.S. Navy fleet. It began shipping vaccines in mid-May for 12- to 17-year-olds.
Even after 10 months of vaccine shipments, the agency shipped more than 5,700 adult doses during the week of Oct. 25. Though some of those were booster shots, many were for employees aiming to meet the Nov. 22 deadline for federal employees to be fully vaccinated, said Army Col. Anthony Bostick, DLA headquarters' vaccination distribution lead.
"At the same time, MTFs are ordering flu vaccines. We're shipping those and providing 13 other vaccines, which include flu and coronavirus vaccines, for Afghan refugees," he said.
DLA distribution staff members are prepared to handle first and second doses for children while continuing to support adult COVID-19 vaccines, boosters and the flu vaccine, Rozzell added.
"The vaccine mission isn't going away any time soon because studies are showing these vaccines wane over time whether it’s the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson and Johnson version," Bostick continued. "It'll probably become another annual vaccination just like we have with the flu, which we’ve been doing successfully for over 20 years."