Four agencies have provided the shots from their own distributions, but this only represents a fraction of the doses the agencies received.
Federal agencies are making significant progress in vaccinating employees and constituents against COVID-19, though they have so far only administered a fraction of the doses they have received.
The Veterans Affairs Department has initiated the most vaccinations with nearly 118,000 first doses given. That is followed by the Defense Department’s 67,000 initial inoculations. The four federal agencies so far reporting their own vaccination programs have administered just 25% of the doses they have received, slightly lower than the 30% of the 15.4 million vaccines distributed across the country.
The Bureau of Prisons has received just 12,800 vaccine doses, but has already used 57% of those. Like all four agencies, the bureau was not tracking or declined to clarify how many of those doses were provided to employees versus inmates or contractors. The Indian Health Service has received about 160,000 vaccine doses and provided the first of two required shots to just 36,000 individuals, or 22% of the doses it received. VA has received about half a million doses, while Defense has received about a quarter of a million.
There are currently about 11,000 active novel coronavirus cases at VA, a dip from the peak seen in late November. Nearly 1,100 of those are VA employees, representing about 8% of the more than 14,000 department workers who have tested positive since the pandemic’s outset. At the Bureau of Prisons, 7,200 inmates and 1,700 staff are currently testing positive for COVID-19. About 4,600 employees have contracted the virus in total. At Defense, more than 31,000 civilian employees and 110,000 military personnel have tested positive.
The Pentagon is providing vaccines to both military and civilian staff, though it has not committed to vaccinating to its entire civil service workforce. IHS and BoP will eventually make the vaccine available to all employees, while VA will do so for all of its health care workers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted VA was inoculating “other federal partners,” but did not offer further specifics. A VA spokesperson did not respond to a request for clarification.
IHS' National Supply Service Center has set up direct distribution from manufacturers to 338 of its facilities and Urban Indian Organizations. Defense established 16 sites for its initial phase of distribution, later expanding that to more than 150 posts around the world. VA set up 37 facilities around the country for initial distribution as they had the requisite freezers in place, but later sent doses to 188 additional sites.
The State Department is also receiving its own distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, but did not respond to an inquiry into how many doses it has received or used. A spokesperson said last month the department was encountering "significant distribution challenges" and was weighing availability against the risk posted to each foreign post and domestic facility in deciding where its doses go. A spokesperson added on Monday that State has requested enough doses to vaccinate its entire workforce, but could not offer further details on timing.
The Bureau of Prisons has distributed the vaccine to 31 of its roughly 150 facilities. Law enforcement and health care workers, including corrections officers, are receiving the vaccine in the bureau's first phase of distribution. About half of staff at each of the 31 facilities receiving vaccines have so far been vaccinated, according to Justin Long, a bureau spokesman. Inmates will begin receiving doses when more become available under a plan developed by the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed, Long said.
The Food and Drug Administration has so far provided emergency authorization for two COVID-19 vaccines, one produced by Pfizer and the other by Moderna. Both require two shots, three and four weeks apart, respectively. About 4.5 million Americans received a first vaccine dose as of Monday morning.