[Editor's note: This story was written in collaboration with Regional Health Command Europe.]MONS, Belgium -- The SHAPE Healthcare Facility and Brussels Army Health Clinic conducted their first inoculations of healthcare workers with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine Jan. 7.The arrival of the vaccine paves the way for a phased vaccine distribution plan to protect our military communities overseas against COVID-19.Initial vaccinations will be limited to healthcare workers and first responders to assess the process and will be used to plan expanded distribution phase, where each service will request and administer the vaccine through a Defense Department-wide phased vaccination approach.“The ability to provide the Moderna Vaccine for our community is a significant milestone in battling this devastating pandemic,” said Col. Kathy Spangler, SHAPE Healthcare Facility and Brussels Army Health Clinic commander. “This is a major step forward to defeating COVID-19.”“These are exciting times for our military and community as Operation Warp Speed goes into effect within the Benelux area of responsibility in an unprecedented timeframe,” said Col. James Yastrzemsky, U.S. Army Garrison Benelux commander. “We are ready to volunteer to take the vaccine to protect one another and begin the process of healing. Every vaccination will get us one step closer to where we need and want to be -- that is herd immunity and getting us back to the sense of normalcy that we all have been yearning for. We are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel that gives us all hope for delivering a Happy 2021.”Each phase of the vaccine distribution process is designed to safely protect DoD personnel from COVID-19 as quickly as possible.“As we work through vaccinating all of our healthcare personnel and first responders, we will also begin to look at our highly deployable forces here in Europe, and our high-risk populations,” said Brig. Gen. Mark Thompson, Regional Health Command Europe commanding general. “After that, we’ll be able to focus on our healthy service members, civilians, Families, retirees not part of the high-risk population, etc.”As the distribution is carried out, information on the timeline of subsequent phases will be provided through command channels and through installation web and social media platforms.Under U.S. Food and Drug Administration emergency use approval, the vaccine is voluntary but recommended by the military.“The FDA only authorizes the use of a COVID-19 vaccine after careful and rigorous testing and trials,” said Thompson. “We are excited to be playing a role in providing a very safe and effective vaccine to our military community. This vaccine is a vital part of our way forward to protect our people, their Families and the communities where we live and work.”All DoD personnel will continue to wear appropriate masks, practice physical distancing, wash hands, follow restriction of movement and adhere to host nation restrictions for the safety of their communities, as a large portion of the population will need to be vaccinated before COVID-19 risks diminish.To learn more about the COVID-19 and U.S. Army Europe and Africa’s vaccination plan, visit https://www.europeafrica.army.mil/coronavirus.