YOKOSUKA, Japan — Forward Deployed Naval Forces from U.S. 7th Fleet began receiving the initial COVID-19 vaccinations Jan. 5 at U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka.
Vice Adm. Bill Merz, members of the 7th Fleet staff, and Sailors from USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), 7th Fleet Flagship, were among the first forward deployed forces to receive the vaccine as part of its phased distribution plan. Medical personnel and strategic forces were initially the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine over the past week at Naval Hospital Yokosuka.
“First and foremost, it’s about protecting the Fleet,” said Merz. “The sooner we get this done, the sooner we can get back to our normal lifestyle. I encourage everybody to get in line, roll up your sleeve, and get the shot.”
The Department of Defense (DoD) is taking a prioritized, phased approach for administering the vaccine to strengthen the DoD’s ability to protect our people, maintain readiness, and support the national COVID-19 response.
“It’s an all hands effort,” said 7th Fleet Command Master Chief Jason Haka. “We have the COVID protocols in place; sanitation, hygiene, etcetera. This is just another effort in the prevention of COVID.”
All Sailors and 7th Fleet personnel with the opportunity to take the vaccine are encouraged to do so to protect their families, their communities and to lower the public health risks associated with the pandemic. The vaccine is being administered on a voluntary basis throughout the DoD.
Sailors aboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) also received the vaccine as part of the DoD’s rollout plan as the 7th Fleet’s lone forward deployed aircraft carrier. The Reagan is instrumental in ensuring 7th Fleet forces remain agile in theater and thus, their inclusion in the higher level roll out was deemed necessary to insure their level of readiness is maintained.
"I am opting in to receive the vaccine in order to set an example for my Sailors, but also to protect my family and my shipmates,” said Chief Master-at-Arms Jessica Abuan, Reagan Security Ops Leading Chief Petty Officer. “My family will be receiving the vaccine too once it's available."
Naval Hospital Yokosuka received a limited quantity of vaccine doses in its initial phase and will limit distribution to healthcare providers and support staff as well as emergency services and public safety personnel in the beginning stages of vaccine delivery.
Additional doses are expected to arrive in the coming weeks to administer to other tiers in the DoD’s vaccination plan. All 7th Fleet personnel will continue to wear appropriate masks, practice physical distancing, wash hands, and follow restriction of movement to protect our safety, as a large portion of the population will need to be vaccinated before COVID-19 risks will diminish.
As the U.S. Navy’s largest forward deployed fleet, U.S. 7th Fleet routinely operates between 50-70 ships and submarines and 140 aircraft with approximately 20,000 Sailors. 7th Fleet’s area of operation spans more than 124 million square kilometers, stretching from the International Date Line to the India/Pakistan border; and from the Kuril Islands in the North to the Antarctic in the South Pacific, providing security and stability to the region. 7th Fleet interacts with 35 other maritime nations to build partnerships that foster maritime security while conducting a wide-range of missions to support humanitarian efforts and uphold international laws and freedoms of the sea.