The use of active-duty troops to increase vaccination numbers has gotten off to a slow start, with only about a tenth of the number of troops anticipated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency having been authorized for deployment, according to officials.
By the end of last week, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had approved 1,110 troops to help with the vaccination efforts after FEMA initially anticipated as many as 10,000 troops, reports CNN.
Further, only a portion of the authorized troops have gotten their deployment orders, with a team of 222 personnel to arrive at a Los Angeles vaccination site on Thursday.
FEMA is still sorting through requests coming in from individual states, according to multiple defense officials. The team arriving in Los Angeles includes medical personnel, registered nurses, and vaccinators from Fort Carson, Colorado.
FEMA and the Department of Defense are discussing more deployments, but it is not clear how many of FEMA's proposed 10,000 troops or the troops who have already been authorized will end up taking part in establishing vaccination mega-sites.
"FEMA is working to determine where the next teams are most needed based on requirements from the states, and DoD anticipates moving another 100 personnel in the coming days and hundreds more in the weeks following," a FEMA spokesperson said.
The agency is leading the government's efforts to boost vaccination numbers but hasn't said how many requests it has gotten from states for federal personnel.
The use of troops is based on President Joe Biden's plans for raising vaccination levels to 1.5 million a day for his first 100 days in the White House.
According to FEMA, sending 10,000 troops to 100 mega-sites nationwide could eventually allow almost 500,000 extra vaccinations every day.
The administration has reached its goal of 1.5 million daily vaccinations in recent days, but a defense official said "nobody is talking about ending the effort."
In a separate measure, the National Guard already has 23,000 troops on duty providing vaccines, conducting testing, and performing other COVID-19 assistance, while the Army Corps of Engineers is working with FEMA to establish community vaccination centers.
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