NORFOLK, Va. - The Navy's top admiral is telling Sailors that the COVID-19 vaccine remains voluntary for now, but he's strongly encouraging them to get the shot.
The comments come in a video of Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russ Smith responding to questions posed by Sailors about the vaccine.
Responding to a question about why the vaccine remains voluntary and not mandatory, Admiral Gilday said it will stay that way until the vaccines have official approval from the Food and Drug Administration, instead of the current emergency use authorization.
"Drugs and vaccines have to be approved by the FDA to ensure only safe and effective products are available to the American public. In situations like this, when there is good scientific reason to believe a product is safe and is likely to treat or prevent disease – which there is in this case - the FDA authorized its emergency use under specific circumstances. Vaccines authorized for emergency use are not mandatory. Bottom line – the FDA has evaluated the vaccine as safe, but it will remain voluntary until official FDA approval," he explained.
Admiral Gilday also reiterated that while the vaccines remain voluntary there will be no penalties for those who choose not to get it.
"Let me be clear here – while the COVID vaccine is voluntary, there will not be consequences for saying no at this time – to include the loss of leave or liberty. But, we urge each and every one of you to consider strongly getting this vaccine."
While vaccination efforts continue, the Navy says COVID-19 mitigation measures, including social distancing and mask wearing, will remain in place.