Back to Top Skip to main content

Amid COVID-19, seasonal influenza still a threat to force readiness

Hospital Corpsman administers a flu shot to a navy officer. The flu shot helps DoD members maintain both mission readiness and wellness. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Marc Cuenca/Released)

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Influenza Summary and Reports | Immunization Healthcare | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases | Influenza, Southern Hemisphere

The COVID-19 pandemic has emerged as the most significant public health emergency in this century. As individuals around the globe race for treatment options and take preventive measures against COVID-19, those living in the Southern Hemisphere are also preparing for another virus – seasonal influenza. The flu typically takes hold from April through September in the Southern Hemisphere and impacts service members and their beneficiaries on military orders in places south of the equator, such as New Zealand, Australia, southern parts of Africa and South America as well as Indonesia.

Before 2020, a Federal Drug Administration-approved Southern Hemisphere influenza vaccine was not available for military personnel or beneficiaries. Service members received the Northern Hemisphere flu vaccine during the Northern Hemisphere season, which runs October to March.

Once the FDA approved a Southern Hemisphere influenza vaccine, the combatant commands quickly engaged with the Office of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs’ Health Readiness Policy and Oversight and Defense Health Agency to get access for their personnel.

Through joint efforts by the CCMDs, Defense Logistics Agency, U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency, and DHA’s Immunization Healthcare Division, service members and their beneficiaries in the Southern Hemisphere can access the FDA-approved, U.S.-labeled Southern Hemisphere vaccine Fluzone®.

“The vaccination will be made available at designated medical treatment facilities in May 2020,” according to Tara Reavey, chief of policy and program management for DHA's Immunization Healthcare Division.

Access to both Northern and Southern hemisphere influenza vaccines supports troop readiness since different flu strains circulate in each hemisphere. “Symptoms of the Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere seasonal influenzas are similar,” said Dr. Jay Montgomery, medical director of the Immunization Healthcare Division’s North Atlantic Region Vaccine Safety Hub. “Typical flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, and muscle aches, but in severe cases may result in hospitalization or death.”

However, Montgomery added, “the common strains identified in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere differ about 60% of the time.” He said the challenge to support force readiness became apparent as DoD members experienced flu-like symptoms when traveling to the Southern Hemisphere flu zone after receiving the Northern Hemisphere vaccine.

“Obviously if we don't have the right virus strains in the vaccine, people are not going to get protection against those strains,” said Montgomery. “Over the years, a substantial number of influenza-like illnesses have occurred among service members and other DoD personnel participating in multinational exercises, such as in Australia, every year,” he said, adding that a vaccine targeting Southern Hemisphere influenza should result in a decrease of influenza-like illnesses there.

The DHA-Interim Procedures Memorandum 20-002 for Southern Hemisphere influenza was published March 20 and “aligns with Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention recommendations to use the appropriate influenza vaccine,” said Reavey. Specifically, Southern Hemisphere influenza vaccination is required for all active duty, reserve component, National Guard members (and recommended for all other beneficiaries), permanently or temporarily assigned for at least 14 contiguous days between April 1 and Sept. 30 to an area designated as a Southern Hemisphere influenza zone by the World Health Organization.

U.S. government civilian employees and family members of personnel who are living in or conducting a permanent change of station to the Southern Hemisphere are authorized to receive the Southern Hemisphere vaccine. In order to develop adequate immunity, personnel traveling to the Southern Hemisphere between April and September should be vaccinated at least two weeks before they go to the region, if possible.

DoD personnel traveling to or residing in the Northern Hemisphere for at least 14 days between October and March and who have not received the current seasonal Northern Hemisphere influenza vaccine are required to receive a Northern Hemisphere vaccine in accordance with the most current DHA-IPM for the Northern Hemisphere seasonal influenza vaccination program.

The DHA-IPM states that individuals may receive vaccines for both the Northern Hemisphere flu and the Southern Hemisphere flu in a year span, but the immunizations will need to be given at least 28 days apart. Service members will not need to receive a flu vaccine for either hemisphere when traveling to the area during an offseason and if in the region for less than 14 days.

For more information on the Southern Hemisphere influenza vaccine, please visit the Military Health System Influenza webpage.

You also may be interested in...

Navy pharmacy techs support COVID-19 and MHS GENESIS efforts

Article
10/20/2020
Navy personnel in a pharmacy

Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Aaron Souders is highlighted for his work as a Navy pharmacy technician.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | MHS GENESIS | Combat Support

Navy tele-health supports Guam civilian hospital during COVID-19

Article
10/19/2020
Woman sitting in front of several computer monitors

[T]his is the first-ever DoD tasking for telemedicine support in response to a request from civil authorities for aid.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Combat Support | Global Health Engagement

Navy unit provided COVID-19 support to Peruvian First Responders

Article
10/16/2020
Fireman getting COVID test in firehouse garage

The province of Callao has the second highest number of COVID-19 cases in Peru.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Global Health Engagement

COVID-19 Social Media Toolkit

Publication
10/16/2020

These messages are provided for you to use on your platforms with any of the images from the COVID-19 Toolkit.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

DHA Director outlines how MHS standardization bolsters reform

Article
10/15/2020
Two soldiers in masks, talking

How COVID-19 repositioned the best laid plans of the DoD.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Joint Health Information Exchange | MHS GENESIS | MHS Transformation

Annual flu vaccine remains a health priority during COVID-19 era

Article
10/13/2020
Military personnel getting flu shot

Annual vaccine is a covered TRICARE benefit.

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases | Public Health | Coronavirus

Pilot DoD/VA hearing program virtually trains technicians

Article
10/9/2020
Military personnel sitting in front of laptop

HCE virtually trains hearing technicians during COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Hearing Loss

MHS Minute: Heroes Behind the Mask

Video
10/8/2020
Image of MHS Minute Carousel

In the face of a global threat, healthcare heroes across the MHS have donned their mask, and served on the front line of the battle against COVID-19. Tune in to this month's "MHS Minute" to learn more!

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

‘I am Navy Medicine’ – helping another in need - Hospitalman Grace Pridmore of NMRTC Bremerton

Article
10/7/2020
Corpsman conviction of care, compassion and competence…Hospitalman Grace Pridmore, from Kellyville, Okla., assigned to Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command (NMRTC) Bremerton Detachment Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS), was acknowledged for her selfless effort by Capt. Shannon J. Johnson, NMRTC Bremerton commanding officer, for identifying another Sailor at risk and taking quick action to help get the Sailor to the appropriate level of care, very possibly saving a life (official Navy photo by Douglas H Stutz, NHB/NMRTC Bremerton public affairs officer).

It takes more than just awareness to respond to someone showing signs of distress.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Mental Health Care | Mental Wellness

DHA priorities focused on readiness, patients, outcomes

Article
10/7/2020
Defense Health Agency Director Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Place speaks at a podium.

Adaptation key to providing outstanding care to beneficiaries.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Combat Support | Access to Health Care | Coronavirus | Convalescent Plasma Collection Program

Maintaining positive social media interactions during COVID-19

Article
10/2/2020
Image of soldier looking at his cell phone

Experts discuss good, bad of social media during pandemic.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

Defense Health Agency celebrates seven years of service

Article
10/1/2020
Lt. Gen. Ronald Place holding a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery

Seven ways DHA has improved military readiness over the years.

Recommended Content:

Defense Health Agency | Coronavirus | MHS Transformation | Technology | Global Health Engagement | TRICARE Health Program | Total Force Fitness

Easy steps to understanding & thwarting depression during COVID-19

Article
9/30/2020
Five people sitting on yoga mats outside in the grass

Learning self-care strategies can help you take charge of your life and improve your mental and physical health.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Mental Health Care | Depression

DHA’s Vaccine Safety Hubs emphasize safety

Article
9/29/2020
Soldier filling a vaccine needle

How MHS works to improve “all things vaccine related."

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Immunization Healthcare | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

Beale AFB clinic launches new EHR -- MHS GENESIS

Article
9/29/2020
Photo of Travis Callihan

This new EHR will provide a better level of care for all Department of Defense beneficiaries.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | MHS GENESIS
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 29

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.