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Naval Air Facility El Centro administers COVID-19 vaccine

Image of Military health personnel administering the COVID-19 vaccine. Navy Hospitalman Gabriel Cabral, assigned to Naval Medical Center San Diego, from Maryland, administers first-round of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine sailors and select Department of Defense support staff onboard Naval Air Facility EL Centro, California on March 4, 2021 (Photo by: Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Drew Verbis, Navy Operational Support Center - Phoenix).

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Sailors and select Department of Defense support staff began receiving the first-round of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine onboard Naval Air Facility EL Centro in California, March 4, 2021.

Due to the emergency authorization the COVID-19 vaccine, while encouraged, remains voluntary for service members. The Department of Defense is taking a prioritized, phased approach for administering the vaccine to volunteer's, to strengthen the DOD's ability to protect personnel, maintain mission readiness, and support the national COVID-19 response.

"It's extremely important for our active-duty and civilian work force that live and work on the installation to take part in the vaccination," said Navy Master Chief Eric Hubert, command master chief, NAF El Centro. "This is one-step closer for us to help in the fight against the COVID pandemic and keep our Navy force strong."

The distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine follows protocols established by prior influenza vaccine seasons. The administration of the vaccine is coordinated by military medical treatment facilities (MTFs) and all supported Navy units, including NAF El Centro, to ensure operational readiness is maintained and the vaccine is administered when available.

"NAF El Centro was fortunate to receive an allotment of vaccine to cover all eligible volunteers," said Navy Lt. Nicholas Blonien, flight surgeon, NAF El Centro. "Thanks to the education efforts of base leadership and a well-trained vaccination team traveling from San Diego’s Naval Medical Center, we capitalized on the opportunity and delivered first-shots to the majority of the qualified NAFEC workforce. This is the first step in achieving community immunity and bringing an end to this pandemic. I am very thankful to all those who volunteered, and we'll continue to encourage vaccination for anyone who remains hesitant."

The COVID-19 vaccine was developed in approximately 1-year and many have their doubts about its safety and effectiveness. However, Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Juan Gonzales, assigned to Naval Medical Center San Diego, urges those with concerns, speak with their primary health-care provider.

"I'm glad to see many shipmates and select DOD workers participating in today’s vaccine evolution," Gonzales said. "Like me, they feel fortunate to receive the vaccine. They're taking the right steps to control the virus, helping to reduce the stigma associated with the vaccine and doing their part to keep the community safe."

As NAF El Centro receives the vaccine, masks and physical distancing will still be required until the vaccine is proven to provide long-term protection. Global and national public health authorities are expected to continue to recommend wearing masks and practicing physical distancing, for everyone, until pandemic risk of COVID-19 is substantially reduced.

The mission of NAF El Centro is to support the combat training and readiness of the warfighter. This includes air operations support to operational fleet and training squadrons as well as squadrons from other services (Marine Corps, Army, Air Force) and international military partners.

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