NORFOLK, Va. - Every Sailor in the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group who wants a COVID-19 vaccine will be able to get one before their upcoming deployment.
The Navy made the announcement Friday, saying the first doses will be administered Saturday while the ships are in port at Naval Station Norfolk.
Securing enough vaccines for the entire strike group only happened within the last week.
The Eisenhower Strike Group is preparing for a second deployment in less than a year, known as a "double pump" deployment.
"IKE CSG Sailors have had a lot asked of them in the COVID environment in this “double pump” deployment, and they have excelled at every opportunity. Providing the vaccine to Sailors who volunteer is the right thing to do to ensure the safety of the crew and that IKE CSG is ready for their mission," said Vice Admiral Woody Lewis, Commander of U.S. 2nd Fleet, in a statement.
The Navy says they now have enough doses for every Sailor in the strike group who wants a vaccine and that about 80% of the crew has accepted the offer to get the vaccine. That represents about 5,000 Sailors.
"We credit that to deckplate level leadership, and the fact that we have some incredibly smart Sailors who did their own research from credible sources. They are motivated because they want to do their part to end this pandemic, to protect families at home, and because they know that access to the vaccine is limited during this early roll-out period," said Rear Admiral Scott Robertson, commander of Carrier Strike Group Two.
The majority of the strike group will receive the Moderna vaccine. The second doses will be administered while on deployment.
The Navy is taking special measures to ensure the timing of the vaccines maintains readiness.
"We are also going to make sure we meter this in a smart way because air crew, according to Navy directives, cannot fly after taking the vaccine for 72 hours. So we are going to make sure we get those folks metered in the correct way so that the ships remain operationally effective and can continue to do their mission," Rear Admiral Doug Beal, Vice Commander of U.S. Fleet Forces, told News 3 anchor Todd Corillo.
Vaccinating service members deploying outside the contiguous United States falls within phase 1b.2 of the Defense Department's tiered vaccination priority system.
The Navy says a team from Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command Clinic Quantico will train the Eisenhower's medical department on administering the vaccine.
They in turn will administer the vaccine to the remainder of the crew.