By Chris Orose
Military Vaccine Agency-Vaccine Healthcare Centers Network (MILVAX-VHCN)
WASHINGTON - With a renewed focus on patient health throughout the Military Health System (MHS), the Military Vaccine (MILVAX) Agency and Vaccine Healthcare Centers Network (VHCN) have unified as one agency ready to provide the entire Department of Defense (DOD) population -- active-duty, Reserve and National Guard, as well as family members, retirees and other beneficiaries -- with the highest quality immunization standards and practices.
Immunization is a cornerstone of the nation’s shift in focus from treatment of disease to prevention of disease. As one unified organization, MILVAX-VHCN will now be able to better provide expert consultation and response to immunization policy and practices, deliver the best education and training, enhance safety surveillance and research, implement communication activities, promote excellence in immunization standards, and make meaningful contributions to the body of knowledge surrounding immunization healthcare.
Regional support operations at more than a dozen sites in the U.S. and selected strategic locations have also combined to reduce gaps and redundancies to better serve stakeholders locally.
“By integrating our two organizations, we’re expanding everything from education and training, to regional support operations, to vaccine policy and program management,” said Lt. Col. Jorge Carrillo, acting director MILVAX-VHCN. “It also allows for an expanded and dedicated staff to focus on research and enhancing scientific understanding of vaccine safety and effectiveness.”
The approval of the MILVAX-VHCN integration was granted in October under then-director Col. Richard Looney. Carrillo and Dr. Limone Collins, deputy director of clinical services, will execute the integration plan and lead the single agency going forward. Working as one agency “allows us to push to the future in conjunction with DOD activities,” said Collins.
“An expansion of focus on operational readiness, as it relates to overall health, is a reflection of what all of DOD is doing.”
As the organization has expanded, so has its mission and target audience which has grown from serving 2.8 million uniformed personnel to more than 9 million beneficiaries worldwide. Collins expects future operations to be “more attractive to a multidisciplinary audience” as a result of better utilization of resources, including doctors, nurses, and other clinical healthcare personnel, as well as subject-matter experts on military immunization policy.
More changes and further integration of MILVAX-VHCN is expected in the near future, as DOD adapts to a changing military landscape. Some hurdles remain, Collins said, but many have been overcome and have led to renewed focus on the organization’s core mission and the military’s focus on patients.
“We’re going to have a lot of opportunities to make our overall operation much more impactful,” said Carrillo. “Patient-centered immunization healthcare and readiness is and always will be our primary vision.”
MILVAX was formed in 1998 to administer the Anthrax Vaccine Immunization Program (AVIP) and later was expanded to administer all military immunization programs. The VHCN was established in 2001 to support programs and services that enhance vaccine safety, efficacy and acceptability within the DOD.