Naval Medical Center San Diego receives first doses of COVID-10 vaccine

Posted at 12:34 PM, Dec 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-14 15:34:14-05

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The first batches of Pfizer's long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine arrived in San Diego County Monday for both U.S. Department of Defense personnel and civilians, with initial vaccinations to begin as soon as Tuesday.

Naval Medical Center San Diego received an unspecified number of vaccines Monday, with front-line medical workers and essential mission personnel -- such as EMS, firefighters and gate personnel -- to begin receiving the first dose of the vaccinations Tuesday. Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton will take a portion of those doses for personnel north of San Diego.

"We are proud to support operation Warp Speed," said Rear Adm. Tim Weber, commander of Naval Medical Forces Pacific. "This vaccine will strengthen our ability to protect our people. I am confident in the stringent regulatory process of the FDA."

Weber said the number of doses delivered to the Navy in San Diego is likely fewer than the number of "first-tier" medical personnel at the two hospitals. Subsequent vaccine allotments -- as the supply chain dictates -- will allow for the second dose of the vaccine to be administered to medical and other "mission-essential" workers, as well as those who missed it the first time, Tricare dependents and non-essential personnel.

The number of doses delivered to the San Diego-area military is classified, Weber said, calling it an "operational security issue." However, the U.S. government has allocated vaccines to 64 jurisdictions, and the DOD plans to administer its initial allocation of 43,875 doses to populations of uniformed service members -- both active and reserves. That includes members of the National Guard, dependents, retirees, civilian employees and select contract personnel.

Capt. Devin Morrison, acting director of Naval Medical Center San Diego, said vaccines for military personnel will be voluntary until the FDA's emergency use authorization is lifted, at which time military personnel will follow DOD guidelines. Military personnel, including medical workers, can refuse the vaccine until then and will continue to operate with strict personal protective equipment standards, Morrison said.

Army Gen. Gustave Perna of Operation Warp Speed told reporters Saturday that UPS and FedEx would be delivering the vaccine to nearly 150 distribution centers across the country.

The department is prioritizing DOD personnel to receive the vaccine based on CDC guidance, first focusing on those providing direct medical care, maintaining essential national security and installation functions, deploying forces, and those beneficiaries at the highest risk for developing severe illness from COVID-19 before other members of the DOD population.

Distribution will be conducted in phases. Due to limited availability of initial vaccine doses, the first phase will distribute and administer vaccines at select locations.

Initial distribution sites -- including the two San Diego sites -- were selected by the DOD's COVID Task Force based on recommendations from the military services and U.S. Coast Guard, to best support several criteria:

-- anticipated supply chain requirements, such as cold and bulk storage facilities

-- local population of at least 1,000 priority personnel across the military services

-- aufficient medical personnel to administer vaccines and actively monitor vaccine recipients