FORT DETRICK, Md. -- The cooler temperatures of fall traditionally usher in yearly influenza spikes all around the globe, and this year is expected to be much of the same.
To help protect Soldiers this flu season, the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency’s Distribution Operations Center, or DOC, expects to distribute nearly 1.4 million doses of vaccine this flu season.
Working closely with the Defense Health and Defense Logistics agencies, the DOC shipped its first batches of vaccine in late August to support overseas units, including active-duty troops, reserves, retirees and their Family members, as well as National Guard units across the country.
As of Oct. 23, Army vaccines shipped totaled 1,370,840 doses, or about 98% of the Army’s total requested allotment, according to Liz Serra, deputy director of USAMMA’s DOC.
The Army's allotment accounts for the majority of the 3.1 million doses being distributed throughout the Department of Defense, which sets an annual goal of having at least 90% of all active-duty military members vaccinated by Jan. 15.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that, on average, between 5% and 20% of people in the U.S. are affected by the flu each season, with children and the elderly population more susceptible.
The flu remains a readiness concern for the Army each year, making the work at the DOC a year-round effort.
“There really is no downtime for us,” Serra said. “We are now shipping vaccine throughout the southern hemisphere, which covers areas below the equator. Their season goes April through September, while the northern hemisphere sees the greatest flu activity from September to March.”
Doses of this year’s vaccine come in different forms to treat a wider range of people, Serra said, including infants 6 months and older to those over 65 years of age.
The CDC recommends people get a yearly flu shot by the end of October. Kids aged 6 months to 8 years may require two doses, given about a month apart.
According to the CDC, private manufacturers are projected to supply as many as 170 million doses of vaccine for the 2023-2024 season, covering four different strains of the virus anticipated to cause most cases.
Seasonal flu activity has been mild so far, there have been slight increases noted in some parts of the U.S., the CDC said.
Influenza is one of several viruses expected to contribute to respiratory disease activity into the winter months, along with COVID-19 and RSV, short for respiratory syncytial virus. For the first time ever, immunizations are available for all three viruses this season, offering protection against severe illness, hospitalization or even death, according to the CDC.
In addition to vaccines, handwashing remains a top recommendation to safeguard against virus transmission, but the CDC urges people to consider other measures, such as masking, physical distancing and improving airflow at home and work, to provide another layer of protection.
USAMMA is a direct reporting unit to Army Medical Logistics Command, the Army’s premier medical logistics organization and Life Cycle Management Command, or LCMC, for medical materiel.