Navy supports mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for Active-Duty, Reserve Sailors

Medical personnel from the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in Illinois prepare vaccinations for use inside Pacific Drill Hall at Recruit Training Command.

On Aug. 31, Vice Adm. W. R. Merz, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Operations, Plans and Strategy, OPNAV N3/N5, released NAVADMIN 190/21 mandating full COVID-19 vaccination for Navy service members.

This NAVADMIN comes after the release of the Secretary of Defense’s memo instructing military departments to enact this new vaccination requirement for DoD uniformed personnel who are not medically or administratively exempt, and the Secretary of the Navy’s ALNAV message directing the same.

“COVID-19 is a readiness issue. As N3/N5, it is my responsibility to deliver the most ready and capable force. This mandate ensures our ability to reach that goal.” said Merz.

“The DoD’s mandatory vaccination policy is the proven way to ensure the readiness and the safety of our naval force, DoD civilian work force, and the American people and our allies and partners. Vaccinating every eligible service member improves readiness and ensures our Sailors and Marines are equipped with the biological body armor needed to protect ourselves from biological threats,” said Rear Admiral Bruce Gillingham, U.S. Navy Surgeon General, Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.

While a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine is a new requirement for the Department of Defense, mandatory vaccinations are not. Currently there are 17 vaccines that are considered safe and effective by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that are necessary to protect the health of the force.

As the services enact this requirement, Navy service members may elect to receive one of the current FDA Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) COVID-19 vaccines in lieu of vaccines that have received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) licensure. Personnel will be considered fully vaccinated two weeks after completing the second dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine or two weeks after receiving a single dose of a one-dose COVID-19 vaccine. Booster shots are under evaluation and will be addressed via a separate message, the NAVADMIN stated.

Throughout the past several months, the services have incurred positive results in those who are fully vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine. Navy Medicine reported up to 95% efficacy in fully immunized service members, reinforcing vaccination as a primary method to reduce risk of COVID-19.

Commanders will retain the authority to tailor additional mitigation measures, such as Health Protection Condition levels, at the local level. Military Treatment Facilities (MTF) will coordinate ordering and administration of vaccines with their supported local units and other eligible populations.

All personnel who receive the vaccination from a retail network pharmacy or other non-DoD vaccine administrator must provide documentation of any COVID-19 vaccination to their Command no later than the next duty day for Active Component or within seven days for Reserve Components to ensure vaccination is appropriately recorded in their electronic health record and/or MRRS.

Navy Medicine is a global health care network of 63,000 personnel that provide health care support to the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, their families and veterans in high operational tempo environments, at expeditionary medical facilities, medical treatment facilities, hospitals, clinics, hospital ships and research units around the world.

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