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Same Annual Flu-Shot Program, Different Terms

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. James Poel
  • 18th Aerospace Medicine Squadron
This year's annual flu-vaccination program will not only protect U.S. military members, their families and civilians, but also provide a unique opportunity for the U.S. military healthcare system to practice response procedures for mass vaccination.

Although there is no imminent threat that may require mass vaccination, military healthcare professionals on Okinawa want to ensure best practices are in place to protect personnel in the most efficient way possible should a situation arise in the future. 

Although the procedures to receive the influenza vaccine may be slightly different this year and the terms used to describe the process new, the vaccine itself remains the same. Some of the terms used during this campaign include "tier-based vaccination" and "social distancing."

Tier-based vaccination is the term used to describe how healthcare systems prioritize giving vaccine with limited resources. As the flu vaccine is not delivered on Okinawa all at once, healthcare professionals must decide who receives the first dose. On island, the first to receive the vaccination are deployers, mission essential personnel, and those units with a high-operations tempo. The reason for this is to ensure the military is able to accomplish its primary job - defending the nation and its allies. 

By using tier-based vaccination, the military is able to vaccinate about 90 percent of the active duty population by December and provide vaccine to military healthcare beneficiaries who request it. 

Another term people may hear is social distancing. The term is used to describe community measures used to slow down or stop the spread of disease. While individual measures to prevent the spread of infection include washing hands with soap and water, using hand sanitizer, coughing into one's elbow, or wearing a surgical mask, social distancing describes how people interact with one another. 

If a particular disease were to threaten a large portion of the population, people may be asked to refrain from hand shaking, keep a distance of four to six feet away from other people, and stop mass gatherings. In this way, social distancing measures greatly decrease the chance of a disease being spread from one person to the next. 

Only designated personnel will participate in the exercises and will be notified in advance by their chain of command. The vast majority of SOFA-status personnel will receive the seasonal influenza vaccine through routine health care. 

Active duty military members are required to receive a flu shot each year. Similarly, this year, children older than 6 months who attend AF sponsored youth programs (Child Development Center, Family Child Care, Before and After School, etc) will be required to receive the annual flu shot. DoD healthcare beneficiaries over the age of six months are highly encouraged by healthcare professionals. 

For more information about the 2008-09 influenza vaccine program, visit For detailed information on avian influenza, visit