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Tripler releases data on military vaccinations

Tripler Army Medical Center, which acts as a clearinghouse for vaccine distribution for much of the military population in Hawaii, said today that 48,324 beneficiaries received their first dose and 30,290 received their second dose as of Wednesday.

It’s the first time the military has provided a partial statistical snapshot of its vaccination totals in the Aloha State, with release of information limited due to operational security concerns. As a result, it remains difficult to get a handle on overall vaccine acceptance.

The vaccination numbers include active duty service members, retirees and dependents from all service branches.

Total defense population numbers vary by source. Tripler uses an approximation of 150,000 for active duty, retirees and dependents in Hawaii, but that includes an undetermined number of children under 16 who are not eligible for the vaccine.

According to the latest figures from the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism in its Hawaii Defense Economy report, there are about 41,300 active duty service members, 60,650 dependents and 18,000 retirees within the Defense Department in Hawaii, for a total of about 120,000.

The vaccination numbers Tripler reported also do not take into account shots given to defense civilians and contractors. The hospital continues to receive and distribute shipments of the Pfizer vaccine throughout the state.

“Our COVID-19 vaccine operations across the Hawaii Military Health System are going exceedingly well,” Col. Martin Doperak, Tripler’s commander, said in a release. “Innovative efforts from all the services help protect everyone in Hawaii by increasing the overall number of people vaccinated, maintaining readiness of our service members and supporting the national COVID-19 response.”

Maj. Gen. Jeff Taliaferro, vice director for operations on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently told members of Congress that early data pointed to vaccine acceptance rates for serv­ice members “somewhere in the two-thirds territory.”

Military members are not required to get COVID-19 shots because vaccines were approved under “emergency use authorizations” and not after full study.

CNN, citing conversations with military medical officials and service members, as well as data from some bases and units around the country, reported today that the military’s opt-out rate for vaccinations may be closer to 50%.

The VA Pacific Islands Health Care System said 55,000 veterans are registered in Hawaii, and 10,000 vaccinations have been given as of this week. Other veteran vaccinations may have been given through civilian providers, the VA said.

Hawaii reached a milestone in the battle against COVID-19 by administering more than a half-million vaccines as of Wednesday, officials said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID data tracker reported 559,118 total shots given in the islands, a rate of 39,489 doses per 100,000 residents — the seventh-­highest in the nation. The total includes vaccinations by the military and Veterans Affairs.

The military in Hawaii recently started to vaccinate all eligible defense personnel 16 and up and created a drive-thru vaccination center at Wheeler Army Airfield. The VA also is opening its vaccinations to all groups.

Star-Advertiser writer Kristen Consillio contributed to this report.

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