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Eliminating the pandemic - one shot at a time

Image of Tom Danaher was one of approximately several hundred 75 years and older beneficiaries who were administered their initial dose of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Tom Danaher was one of approximately several hundred 75 years and older beneficiaries who were administered their initial dose of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command, Bremerton, Jan. 30, 2021. (U.S Navy photo by Douglas Stutz)

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Before the onset of the current pandemic outbreak last year, retired Navy Capt. Tom Danaher visited his son stationed in the South Pacific.

The prospect of being able to even consider a return trip seemed remote.

Until now.

Danaher was one of approximately several hundred 75 years and older beneficiaries who were administered their initial dose of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command (NMRTC) Bremerton at the end of January.

“Got to do this. First of all, a big ‘thank you’ to Navy Medicine for this (vaccination). Being a retiree, and receiving this support from such a team effort is a good deal. Really appreciate it,” said Danaher.

Following the Department of Defense distribution plan for administering the vaccine, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, military medical treatment facilities (MTF) like NMRTC Bremerton have using a prioritized, phased approach to provide the vaccine for all active duty and reserve components, TRICARE Prime and TRICARE Select beneficiaries, and select DoD civilians and contract personnel authorized to receive immunizations from DoD.

NMRTC Bremerton is currently at Phase 1B of the distribution plan, focusing on beneficiaries age 75 and older, along with front line essential workers in federal government sectors such as education, youth and child service staff, eligible defense manufacturing, DOD corrections staff, DOD postal service staff, DOD public transit workers, Navy commissary and other installation food service and/or agricultural workers.

“This entire evolution was well-organized, very professional, and quickly provided. These young corpsmen are amazing. It’s just like being back in the Navy,” Danaher exclaimed.

After getting an initial shipment Dec. 22, 2020, of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine that received emergency use authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration, NMRTC Bremerton began administering the vaccinations the day after, Dec. 23, 2020.

There has been a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine(s) during the rollout, with initial vaccine distribution priorities focused on such personnel as emergency room, urgent care centers and first responders; health care and support personnel as well as active duty service members deploying or supporting COVID-19 response operations.

For Michael Ross DeMinter, Navy retiree, the Saturday morning appointment was just what the doctor ordered.

“We have been waiting. I’ve been looking and calling to see when the vaccine was available. Appreciate being able to be here. This will save lives. Glad to do our part to help,” DeMinter said.

The common refrain expressed on the weekend morning was one of thankfulness. Many beneficiaries shared their appreciation to staff.

“It’s a good feeling that everyone coming through here appreciates what we’re doing. The retirees are so grateful. It touches my heart and makes me proud to do our part for our country,” said Navy Hospitalman Jian Gonzalez.

“Everyone who showed up today has commented to our corpsmen how appreciative they are to be able to receive the vaccine. It means a lot to us to hear that we’re having a positive impact,” added Navy Cmdr. Robert Uniszkiewicz, NHB/NMRTC Bremerton public health director and head of the command COVID-19 working group who was on site assisting and observing the vaccination team staffed by hospital corpsmen and involvement by Navy Nurse Corps.

NHB will again be providing the COVID-19 vaccine to a limited number of over 75 year old beneficiaries and continue to announce COVID-19 vaccination opportunities as soon as doses are received. At the moment, appointments are not being accepted for any other dependents or retiree groups.

The hope is that the COVID-19 vaccine supply will steadily increase to enable more dependents and retirees to be vaccinated in the coming weeks.

“Our goal since the onset is to provide the vaccine in a timely and safe evolution to as many as we can. To that end, we continue to coordinate and work with our Carrier Strike Group Three partners, Submarine Group Nine leadership, and with assistance from Navy Region Northwest and Naval Base Kitsap to continue administering the vaccine,” Uniszkiewicz stated.

Although getting the vaccine is voluntary, all DOD personnel are being encouraged to get it to protect their health, their families and their community.

“With a strong sense of mission conviction and exceptional collaboration, our team has been able to progress at a steady rate through the DOD’s priority schema, delivering first doses to our personnel involved in critical national capabilities and personnel preparing to deploy to locations outside of the U.S. We are now excited to be able to expand the scope of who is eligible to get vaccinated against the virus to include our beneficiaries age 75 and older and frontline essential workers. We could not have moved out this quickly and effectively without the collaborative efforts of our frontline experts from across directorates, who have been involved in the planning, logistics, information management support, training and quality control. Equally important has been the willingness of many to get outside their comfort zones and take on new roles and responsibilities,” commented Navy Capt. Shannon Johnson, NHB/NMRTC Bremerton commanding officer.

NMRTC Bremerton leadership continues to advocate for vigilance even after receiving their vaccinations Public health guidance and mitigation strategies include staying home when sick, frequent hand washing, practicing physical distancing, and wearing face coverings.


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