Pentagon, FEMA open mass vaccination sites in Texas and New York
The Pentagon and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) opened COVID-19 vaccination sites in Texas and New York on Wednesday, with more slated for Florida and Pennsylvania in the coming days.
Three vaccination centers were opened in Texas this week, with two similar sites in New York.
A senior military official told reporters that four sites are to be set up in Florida, and one in Philadelphia, according to multiple outlets.
The new sites, which come on the heels of the first one in Los Angeles that has been up and running since last week, bring a total of 700 troops to U.S. cities to help vaccinate civilians at FEMA-run clinics.
“We’re in the business of protecting Americans, and saving lives, and they feel really good about what they’ve been doing,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told troops and reporters on Wednesday after touring the Los Angeles site on California State University campus.
Austin, who met with military leaders overseeing the coronavirus response effort, later told reporters that the mobile vaccination teams have proved so successful that he intends to talk to agency leaders about expanding them.
The ramped-up efforts between the Pentagon and FEMA underscore the urgency of the Biden administration in its race to administer millions of vaccines to areas hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 500,000 people in the U.S.
FEMA in late January asked the Defense Department to help with President Biden’s goal of vaccinating 100 million people in the first 100 days of his presidency.
In response, the Pentagon has plans to deploy up to 100 teams of service members from across the military, with the first 25 to be sent to FEMA sites in the country’s largest virus outbreak zones.
A total of 11 sites are expected to be functioning by next week.
Speaking from Los Angeles on Wednesday, Austin said one young sergeant from the area told him how he had administered the vaccine to his own mother.
“I’m not a very emotional guy but … it almost brought me to tears,” Austin told troops and reporters during his first trip outside Washington as Pentagon chief. “The ability to do things like that, I think it really makes a difference in our troops finding this to be a very meaningful deployment.”
Service members are giving 6,000 shots a day in Los Angeles, with plans to reach the same numbers at the new FEMA site in Houston. A 222-member team started working at the center on Wednesday, military officials told reporters traveling with Austin.
Slightly smaller, 139-member teams started administering shots in the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, and in two sites in Dallas. All are expected to eventually deliver 3,000 vaccines a day.
Four other 139-member teams, meanwhile, are on their way to Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville in Florida, and a 222-member team will be sent to Philadelphia.
Additionally, three 25-member medical units have been sent to New Jersey and one will be sent to the U.S. Virgin Islands.