Q. What should I expect when I receive the COVID-19 vaccine?
A. It is important to understand how your body responds to vaccines. According to the CDC’s article “Understanding How COVID-19 Vaccines Work”, we must first look at how our bodies fight illness. COVID-19 vaccines help our bodies develop immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19 without us having to get the illness. Different types of vaccines work in different ways to offer protection, but with all types of vaccines, the body is left with a supply of “memory” T-lymphocytes as well as B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight that virus in the future. According to the CDC, getting vaccinated is one of many steps you can take to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Protection from COVID-19 is critically important because for some people, it can cause severe illness or death. Within the U.S., over 568,000 people have died after developing COVID-19, the majority prior to COVID-19 becoming a vaccine preventable illness.
Q. Will vaccines be available at Coast Guard medical clinics? When will they be available?
A. Yes. The Coast Guard is implementing a phased delivery of COVID-19 vaccine following FDA Emergency Use Authorization under the Coast Guard plan, which is part of the Department of Defense (DoD) plan. The initial vaccination sites were selected by DoD based on the capacity to receive ultra-cold vaccines, population, participation of each military service (including the Coast Guard), and availability of an Immunization Healthcare Specialist. Vaccination distribution prioritization follows the DoD prioritization and the national prioritization set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Q. Where will the Coast Guard doses be distributed?
A. Initial distribution sites were selected by the Department of Defense (DoD) COVID Task Force from sites recommended by the military services and U.S. Coast Guard.
Q. Who will receive the vaccine once it becomes available and when?
A. Our goal is that every member of the Coast Guard (active, reserve, civilian, auxiliary), our family members, and retirees, will be able to receive a safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine through one of several methods. The Coast Guard will use a phased approach to allocate the initial limited quantities of the vaccine under the Department of Defense (DoD) plan for active duty and reserve military members. The Coast Guard will offer to vaccinate civilian employees as the vaccine becomes available. DoD’s prioritization is aligned to the national prioritization directed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Q. Why is the vaccine not available in my area?
A. In the initial phase, a limited number of sites were selected to receive vaccine(s) at first to ensure successful vaccine administration. When we shift to the next phase under the DoD plan as more vaccine becomes available, distribution will expand to more Coast Guard locations to be able to reach across the force. The Coast Guard will follow DoD prioritization for distributing the vaccine across the United States.
Q. Will the Coast Guard require all service members to receive the vaccine?
A. Currently, the vaccine is offered on a voluntary basis. Priority populations are highly encouraged to receive the vaccine. When formally licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a vaccine may become mandatory for military personnel, as is the case for the influenza vaccine.
Alternately, if the White House issues an order mandating vaccination for members of the armed forces, the vaccine may become required as a matter of policy.
Q. Why should I get the vaccine?
A. Getting vaccinated will help prevent you from becoming infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 disease. While many people who become ill with the COVID-19 disease have only a mild illness, others may have serious, life-threatening complications, develop a severe illness, or die. There is no way to know how the COVID-19 disease will affect you, your family, colleagues, neighbors, or shipmates. Even if you are not at increased risk of severe complications, 60% of all infections are transmitted to others unwittingly by persons without symptoms. We still do not fully understand the long-term health consequences of the COVID-19 disease.
As with other vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccination protects you by creating an antibody response without having to experience the infection.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide additional information and resources regarding COVID-19 vaccine safety, and how vaccine help our bodies develop immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19, at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines.html.
Q. How will I know when I am eligible to get the vaccine?
A. Your unit will be notified when portions or all of your unit are eligible to get the vaccine.
Q. Are military members permitted to obtain the vaccine off-base if the opportunity presents itself?
A: Yes, military members are permitted to receive the COVID-19 vaccine off-base if the opportunity presents itself. We encourage members to obtain the vaccine at their servicing clinic, but they are not required to do so. However, if a member is vaccinated off-base, they will be responsible for informing their servicing medical clinic in order for that to be recorded in the member's medical record.
Q. If military members receive the vaccine off-base, will TRICARE cover the expense of the vaccine and will the VA cover if there are any complications down the road?
A. Yes, Tricare will cover any costs associated with the COVID-19 vaccine if obtained on the outside. If you are charged for the vaccine, you should keep your receipt and file a claim with TRICARE. If you experience any long-term issues from receiving an authorized vaccine, whether you obtained the vaccine from a Coast Guard clinic or from a civilian health care provider, the VA will cover for any long-term disability issues caused by the vaccine.
Q: When will COVID vaccines be administered to Coast Guard recruits?
A: The Coast Guard will vaccinate recruits at Training Center Cape May who desire to be vaccinated as soon as vaccine is available. Eligible Coast Guard members, to include recruits, are strongly encouraged to receive the COVID-19 vaccine for their health and the health of others.