More than 24,400 National Guard soldiers and airmen remain on COVID-19 related duties across the nation.
Fifty-two states and territories are approved to use the Guard on federal orders to support their efforts through September, officials said. Many are being used to administer the vaccine itself.
That support comes as the Defense Department begins to ramp up its active-component support for vaccine distribution and administration.
Last week, more than 1,100 active-component troops were deployed to five planned vaccination centers as part of a push to inoculate more Americans against COVID-19. At least one of those centers was set to be opened in California.
The centers are opening as vaccine doses become more available. The race to vaccine the nation is taking on added urgency amid multiple mutations which have made the virus spread faster and inflict deadlier symptoms.
Currently, just 6.9 million people have been fully immunized against COVID-19. Officials have said they believe more than 70% of the country, or more than 230 million people, must be vaccinated before the nation reaches widespread, or “herd” immunity.
The Guard has already been used to ramp up vaccinations. According to Military Times, nearly 100 Guard teams are currently working in 29 states.
According to the National Guard Bureau, the Guard is considering training additional members to give shots to help reach remote and rural populations. Guard leaders have said the force could field about 200 additional teams and that training additional soldiers and airmen would potentially provide more.
“If we reach the point where we’ve fully implemented all of our folks who can [give shots], then they’re looking at potential training opportunities if we’re going to need more than that,” Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told the Associated Press. “We’re going to do everything to make a difference and meet whatever that need is.”
Guard teams are currently providing more than 50,000 shots a day, officials said.