By U.S. Naval Hospital Naples Public Affairs
U.S. Naval Hospital (USNH) Naples, Italy received its first shipment of the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on Jan. 8.
The vaccine, developed by the American pharmaceutical company Moderna and the National Institutes of Health, was approved in late December by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration under an Emergency Use Authorization.
The vaccine is administered in two doses, with inoculations starting for first responders and frontline medical staff on Jan. 8.
“This is the light at the end of the tunnel we have been working towards,” says Capt. Chad McKenzie, USNH Naples commanding officer. “The pandemic has affected all of our lives and I’m immensely proud of the work our healthcare team has accomplished. Now we shift from a defensive posture and seize the initiative to get our lives back to normal. We have been planning for this and are ready to safely begin the vaccination rollout.”
While there will be a limited supply of the COVID-19 vaccine in the early stages of the program, the Department of Defense (DoD) is administering the vaccine using a phased approach. Vaccination distribution prioritization within DoD will be consistent with data-driven Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance for national prioritization.
The first shot was administered to Hospitalman Leslie Arnold, who works in the USNH Naples emergency department.
“It’s exciting to finally have the vaccine,” says Arnold. “We’ve all worked really hard to keep ourselves and our patients safe during the pandemic. It hasn’t always been easy but receiving the shot moves us one step closer to getting back to normal.”
Receiving the vaccine is voluntary, and USNH Naples is coordinating with installation leadership to vaccinate first responders, such as frontline medical workers, security forces and emergency service personnel.
All personnel who are vaccinated will still be required to follow established protocols, such as cloth face coverings, washing of hands and social distancing, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illness.
“I am incredibly proud of our community's resilience and how they have responded to this global pandemic,” said Capt. James Stewart, Naval Support Activity (NSA) Naples commanding officer. “Though this vaccination is a great step forward in ending this pandemic, we are not out of the woods yet. If we continue to follow all of the COVID-19 mitigation measures, practice personal responsibility, and maintain our vigilance while we go through the vaccination process, I am confident that together we can beat this virus.”
As additional doses of the vaccine arrive at USNH Naples, the option to be vaccinated will be opened up to additional members of the NSA Naples community per the DoD’s phased approach. Information about the vaccine will continue to be distributed through USNH Naples and NSA Naples.
USNH Naples, the largest naval hospital in Europe, serves a diverse population of over 9,800 beneficiaries. Over 500 staff members at the main hospital, branch health clinic, and Navy Liaison Detachment in Landstuhl, Germany work tirelessly to keep warfighters in the fight and provide care for their families.
NSA Naples is an operational ashore base that enables U.S., allied, and partner nation forces to be where they are needed, when they are needed to ensure security and stability in Europe, Africa, and southwest Asia.
U.S. Sixth Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.