Feature   Defense News

Naval Medical Center San Diego Receives First Shipment of COVID-19 Vaccine

Dec. 18, 2020 | BY Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jacob L. Greenberg

Naval Medical Center San Diego  received its first shipment of coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines Dec. 14, 2020. The vaccines are from the American pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer and are administered in a two-dose series.

"I'm very excited and proud that NMCSD is among the first [COVID-19] vaccine sites in the world," said Navy Cmdr. Jason Rice, NMCSD's director of public health and public health emergency officer. "I'm grateful that we have the opportunity to participate in such a historic public health event that will have a profound impact on the health of our staff and the Department of Defense family we serve.

A sailor handles a box of vaccines.
Vaccine Check
The first doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine arrive at Naval Medical Center San Diego, Dec. 14, 2020.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Vernishi R. Vaughn-Lucas
VIRIN: 201214-N-GP839-0163

The DOD COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration plan will implement a phased, standardized and coordinated strategy for prioritizing, distributing and administering COVID-19 vaccines to protect our people, maintain readiness and support the national COVID-19 response. The Department of Health and Human Services  and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  vaccine allocation data have informed the deliberate development of the DOD's feasible and scalable distribution and administration plan.

"For several weeks, our public health and material management teams have been working very hard to prepare for this event to ensure that we would be able to safely and effectively receive, store, handle and administer the vaccine," Rice said. "It has certainly been a challenge, given the unique requirements of this particular vaccine and the compressed timeline for its rollout. Our team has done an outstanding job in preparing to execute this mission, and we're excited to be a part of this critical, public health response effort."

NMCSD is coordinating with regional installation leadership to vaccinate volunteering first responders, such as frontline health care workers, emergency management service personnel and security forces.

"Now that we have successfully received the vaccine, we will begin administering it on Dec. 15," Rice said. "In this phase we are prioritizing our highest-risk health care workers and first responders from our local installations. Within phase 1, there are three sub-tiers. Sub-tier 1 consists of health care workers within the emergency department and intensive care unit, as well as local installation emergency medical services, fire and police departments from the six local Navy and Marine Corps installations that we support. Sub-tier 2 recipients include our NMCSD inpatient health care workers, and sub-tier 3 are their outpatient counterparts."

Rice said when NMCSD begins administering the vaccine, they will work to vaccinate sub-tier 1 personnel within 2-3 days, followed by sub-tier 2 and 3 personnel as vaccine supplies from this initial shipment permit.

A sailor prepares to handle a box of vaccines.
Vaccine Carry
The first doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine arrive at Naval Medical Center San Diego, Dec. 14, 2020.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Vernishi R. Vaughn-Lucas
VIRIN: 201214-N-GP839-0160

The implementation of phase 2 will begin when NMCSD receives its next shipment of vaccines from Pfizer.

"We anticipate that shipment arriving in the coming weeks," Rice said. "[That shipment will] cover the second dose for everyone who received their first dose this week, and with the remainder, we will move on to administering dose number one for additional healthcare workers."

The general reception of the vaccine around NMCSD has been positive.

"From my discussion with staff members throughout the command, including talks with leadership all the way down to the deck plates, my sense is that our staff are very receptive and excited about receiving the vaccine," Rice said. "As with any new vaccine or therapeutic that comes out, there will be some confusion and many questions; that is expected. We will have staff on hand to counsel patients and address their questions and concerns."

Rice said, “NMCSD will subsequently move on to vaccinating all active duty and eligible beneficiaries as per the DOD's prioritization schema. When NMCSD moves on to that phase of the rollout, our goal is to ensure that all beneficiaries are well informed about the vaccine. We look forward to continuing the process, beginning with our phase 1 health care providers, moving on to our supported active duty units as well as all of our beneficiaries."

NMCSD is committed to protecting the health and readiness of our sailors, Marines, civilian employees and their families, safeguarding our national security capabilities, and supporting the whole-of nation response. All DOD personnel will continue to wear appropriate face masks, practice physical distancing, wash hands and follow restriction of movement guidelines to protect themselves.

Two military leaders wearing face masks sit at a conference table.
Teleconference Ready
Navy Capt. Devin Morrison, acting commanding officer of Naval Medical Center San Diego and Cmdr. Jason Rice, director for public health and public health emergency officer, compare notes ahead of a media roundtable teleconference, Dec. 14, 2020.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Vernishi R. Vaughn-Lucas
VIRIN: 201214-N-GP839-0139

NMCSD and Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton were selected by the DOD's COVID-19 Task Force to receive the first doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, based on recommendations from the military services and the U.S. Coast Guard, to best support several criteria to include anticipated supply chain requirements, such as cold and bulk storage facilities, local population of at least 1,000 priority personnel across the military services and sufficient medical personnel to administer vaccines and actively monitor vaccine recipients.

NMCSD's mission is to prepare service members to deploy in support of operational forces, deliver high quality health care services and shape the future of military medicine through education, training and research. NMCSD employs more than 6,000 active duty military personnel, civilians and contractors in Southern California to provide patients with world-class care anytime, anywhere.