“While we would have preferred to vaccinate our entire Department workforce at once, we will have to do so incrementally based on vaccine availability,” State Department Under Secretary for Management Brian Bulatao wrote in a memo to the department that was reviewed by CNN. “We advise employees to continue to wear face coverings, physically distance, and follow the guidance issued through Diplomacy Strong and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
In addition to front-line medical personnel and American personnel in Kabul, Baghdad and Mogadishu, Bulatao said, the department will initially “prioritize vaccination” of personnel supporting its 24/7 watch centers, critical operations, maintenance, custodial staff and mission-critical diplomatic security personnel in the national capital region.
The news comes after the first doses of coronavirus vaccines were administered to the American public on Monday, after the US Food and Drug Administration authorized the groundbreaking vaccine late last week. The initial batch is being focused on health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities, per CDC recommendations, but some government officials are also slated to be inoculated in the early rounds of the vaccine.
Vice President Mike Pence announced Tuesday that he will receive a Covid-19 vaccine in “the days ahead,” while administration officials have discussed how and when President Donald Trump might be vaccinated but haven’t yet made a decision on scheduling his shot, according to a person familiar with the plan. The Biden transition team expects to announce “soon” when President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will receive Covid-19 vaccines, a transition official said.
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Thomas McCaffery announced last week that the Pentagon was expected to receive “just under 44,000 doses” of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine early this week, with the first doses going to medical personnel and a select number of senior leaders.
Some have already been inoculated, with acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller receiving his vaccine Monday afternoon at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The Navy’s top admiral, Chief of Naval Operations Mike Gilday, encouraged sailors on Tuesday to get the vaccine, adding that he plans to receive it “shortly.”
Tuesday’s State Department memo did not say anything about when Secretary Mike Pompeo and his closest advisers would get vaccinated. The State Department did not respond directly to a CNN inquiry as to when Pompeo will get the vaccine and if he falls into the critical operations category.
“The Department’s Bureau of Medical Services’ operational medicine and logistics experts are among the best in the world at executing complex missions,” a department spokesperson said in a statement. “They are planning and navigating significant distribution challenges. Due to operational sensitivity, the Department is not publicly sharing specific details of the timing or logistics of the deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine for State’s workforce at this time.”
American personnel in Kabul, Baghdad and Mogadishu were picked to be among the first US diplomats to get the vaccine “due to local conditions that can exacerbate the disease burden and the challenges of providing medical support services in these locations,” the memo said. The memo seemed to indicate that locally employed staff in those locations would not be recipients of this first tranche of vaccines.
The vaccines are coming from Operation Warp Speed to the State Department.
“Department leadership continues to engage with OWS and plans to deploy the COVID-19 vaccine to the broader workforce as soon as it is made available. We will continue to keep you updated as new information is shared with us,” Bulatao wrote.
CNN’s Ryan Browne, Barbara Starr, Kaitlan Collins and Maegan Vazquez contributed to this report.