The Pentagon has drafted a list of the groups that it will provide the coronavirus vaccine to first. It is prioritizing health care workers and then "critical national capabilities," which will include the country’s nuclear forces, elite military units and senior Pentagon leaders, according to two defense officials familiar with the list.
Officials have said that the Defense Department will receive a tranche of the vaccine and has been delegated responsibility to decide who will receive it.
The military is expected to initially receive significantly fewer vaccine doses than there are military and civilian personnel working for the US Department of Defense, meaning they have to prioritize who will get the initial doses.
The list of senior leaders to receive the vaccine will likely include acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller and Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The senior leaders are being prioritized due to their seniority but they are also at higher risk from the virus because they are older than the average military service member. Miller is 55 and Milley is 62.
It was not clear whether the list of priority recipients had been finalized, but the draft seen by CNN Tuesday has been widely circulated within the Defense Department. The Pentagon did not respond to a request for comment on the draft.
The vaccine rollout could begin in the next few days with the US Food and Drug Administration due to meet on Thursday to consider approving the authorization of Pfizer's vaccine.
The Pentagon list is divided into three "phases," and several sub-phases, according to the defense official familiar with the list.
The first phase will involve the vaccination of "health care providers, health care support, emergency services and public safety personnel." Personnel working in intensive care units, emergency rooms, urgent care centers, and first responders such as emergency medical services, police, search and rescue, and firefighters will be among the first to receive the vaccine. Residents in Armed Forces retirement homes will also fall into this first category. The coronavirus has proven deadly to nursing home communities.
The next priority group will include inpatient health care and support personnel as identified by their institutions.
National Guard and Reserve personnel on active duty supporting Covid response efforts, patient care, Urban Augmentation Military Task Forces supporting civilian hospitals, and administering of the vaccines or testing will be next to receive the vaccine.
Thousands of National Guard and Reserve personnel have been called up to support virus response efforts across the country.
After the vaccination of military health care workers, the next high priority group — designated Phase 1b.1 — will include "Critical National Capabilities" such as strategic and nuclear deterrence forces, homeland defense forces, "national leadership/senior staff as defined by Joint and Service staff principals," the Special Operations Command national mission force, and the Cyber Command national mission force.
After senior leaders and elite units are vaccinated, the next group to receive the vaccine will include personnel preparing to deploy within the next three months, including military, civilian and contractors who would normally receive Defense Department vaccines in pre-deployment.
The next group to receive the vaccine will include "other critical and essential defense department personnel," including select members of the military, staff working in Defense Department schools, child and youth services, and food handlers on military installations.
Phase 2 will include "high risk" beneficiaries, and Phase 3 healthy uniformed military personnel.