Army Spc. Hana Lee, a dental specialist assigned to the Baumholder Army Dental Clinic, receives her first dose of the COVID vaccine. Dental care providers and staff were included as part of the initial distribution since performing dental procedures puts them at high risk for exposure to COVID-19
Army Spc. Hana Lee, a dental specialist assigned to the Baumholder Army Dental Clinic, receives her first dose of the COVID vaccine. Dental care providers and staff were included as part of the initial distribution since performing dental procedures puts them at high risk for exposure to COVID-19 (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

SEMBACH, Germany -- Army dental clinic staff across the European theater lined up with their healthcare counterparts to receive the Moderna COVID vaccine, as part of the initial distribution of the vaccine which began Dec. 28.

Dental care providers and staff were included as part of the initial distribution since performing dental procedures puts them at high risk for exposure to COVID-19. “The COVID vaccinations are a significant part of maintaining medical readiness in fulfilling our commitment to serve and defend our nation,” said Col. Manuel Pozo-Alonso, commander of Dental Health Command Europe. “The vaccine has since been administered voluntarily to dental professionals and staff at all Army dental clinics across the European theater.”

Military and civilian dental professionals and support staff who interact with patients on a daily basis and who are at the greatest risk of contracting the virus are being vaccinated first, in line with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and DOD guidelines.

“The health of our force, our military and civilian employees, families and communities is a top priority,” said Pozo-Alonso.

Under U.S. Food and Drug Administration emergency use approval, the vaccine is voluntary but highly recommended by the military.

“The FDA only authorizes the use of a COVID-19 vaccine after careful and rigorous testing and trials,” said Brig. Gen. Mark Thompson, Regional Health Command Europe commanding general. “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.”

Army medical officials advise that while the COVID vaccine will diminish or eliminate the pandemic over time, force health protection measures will continue for the foreseeable future.

“People should keep in mind that receiving the vaccine does not exempt them from the public health and force health protection measures that are currently in place,” added Pozo-Alonso. “This includes proper social distancing, wearing of face masks, washing hands, and current travel restrictions.”