Military personnel, civilian health care professionals and emergency responders who volunteered were among some of the first people to receive a COVID-19 vaccination on Monday (December 14) and Tuesday (December 15), as the United States expanded its rollout of the newly approved Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine.

Distribution of the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech SE began on Monday, three days after it won US emergency-use authorization, opening a new front in the battle against a pandemic claiming more than 2,400 US lives a day.

Lt. J.G. Catherine Senoyuit, a staff nurse in the Emergency Department at the Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) in California, was the first person in the facility to get the vaccine in her arm.

“So as the health care providers, if we’re able to receive the vaccinations, that’s just one less thing that we have to be concerned about passing on to our patients. We’ve all been really awesome about wearing our PPE and masks, but it just adds a layer of security to our patient care so that we’re able to make sure that we’re giving them, delivering the safest possible care to our patients every single day,” she said.

In a statement, the Department of Defense (DOD) said it plans to administer, in phases, its initial allocation of 43,875 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to those “providing direct medical care, maintaining essential national security and installation functions, deploying forces, and those beneficiaries at the highest risk for developing severe illness from COVID-19 before other members of the DOD population.”

Based on CDC guidance and limited availability of vaccine doses, initial distribution sites were selected by the DOD’s COVID Task Force from sites recommended by the military services and US Coast Guard. This is the first of three phases for delivering the new vaccine to the more than 1.3 million active duty, reserve and civilian defense employees.

The US rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine will see hundreds of thousands inoculated in a mass immunization expected to reach the general public in the coming months.

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