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YOKOSUKA, Japan - Sailors assigned to the U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), began receiving initial COVID-19 vaccinations at Command Fleet Activities, Yokosuka (CFAY), Jan. 7.
The Ronald Reagan vaccinations followed U.S. 7th Fleet’s initial vaccinations, Jan. 5, and are part of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) prioritized, phased approach for administering the vaccine to strengthen the DoD’s ability to protect its people, maintain readiness, and support a worldwide COVID-19 response for U.S. service members.
The DoD’s plan to distribute and administer initial and future allocations of COVID-19 vaccine is deliberate and phased. As a forward-deployed unit, Ronald Reagan is identified as an essential national security function. Initial vaccine distribution sites, like on CFAY, best support several criteria including anticipated supply chain requirements for initially approved vaccines; a local DoD population with at least 1,000 priority personnel across the military services to receive vaccines; and sufficient necessary medical personnel to administer vaccines and actively monitor vaccine recipients after initial and second-dose administration.
Ronald Reagan has prioritized its crew, rolling out the vaccinations for medical personnel and strategic forces first, followed by the rest of the crew as the vaccine becomes available.
Capt. Fred Goldhammer, Ronald Reagan’s commanding officer, continues to encourage the crew to take advantage of the vaccine now in order to protect friends, family, and the local on base and off base communities surrounding CFAY.
“There are many reasons to take advantage of the vaccine right now, to include protecting our friends and families from the scourge that has been this disease,” said Goldhammer. “We now have the advantage in the fight against this unprecedented global pandemic.”
Capt. Merrill Rice, Ronald Reagan’s senior medical officer, oversees the vaccination efforts for the ship.
“Planning and implementing the vaccinations [has been] an incredibly detailed process, and is truly an all-hands effort,” said Rice.
Electronics Technician 2nd Class Christian Jovan, working in Ronald Reagan’s travel office, expressed why being vaccinated was important to him.
“I got the vaccine for protection,” said Jovan. “Also, I trust it because no one cares more than our healthcare professionals. I did my research, but I also kept in mind that doctors only want to help.”
Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Brandon Johnson emphasized that the vaccine will help ensure health and safety of the crew leading up to the next deployment.
“I got the shot so the ship can continue to be lethal and mission ready,” said Johnson.
Rice also explained why achieving maximum crew participation is essential to establishing command immunity and readiness.
“While healthy and young Sailors have a better chance of fighting the illness, [COVID-19] still has the potential to cause damage to our ship and mission,” said Rice. “This vaccine [can possibly] turn the tide against the illness.”
Elaborating on the battle against COVID-19, Rice emphasized how important the vaccine is to Ronald Reagan’s COVID-19 fight.
“We finally have an offensive weapon to use against the illness,” said Rice. “Now, we have something that can counter the virus and I appreciate everyone’s enthusiasm in accepting this tool in our fight.”
As members of the crew receive the vaccine, masks and physical distancing will still be necessary until the vaccine is proven to provide long-term protection. Global and national public health authorities are expected to continue to recommend wearing masks and practicing physical distancing, for everyone, until pandemic risk of COVID-19 is substantially reduced.
Ronald Reagan, the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 5, provides a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of its allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region. The ship returned to Yokosuka in November 2020 following a six-month deployment in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility.