WICHMANN: Good morning sir! How are you? Do you have a couple of minutes?
BOWES: Chief, absolutely! What’s going on?
WICHMANN: Awesome. Thank you sir. So, I guess my first question is, would be, can someone like me, a Navy Reserve Sailor, get the COVID-19 vaccine from the DoD?
BOWES. Absolutely, yes! In fact, both SELRES and Full-Time Support Sailors are eligible and encouraged to receive COVID-19 vaccines for free at their nearest medical military treatment facilities (MTFs). But remember, every MTF is different, so you should reach out to your NOSC to see if it is available.
WICHMANN: Ok, but say I don’t live near a MTF or DoD vaccination site, can I get the COVID-19 vaccine another way?
BOWES: Yes. You can take part in local civil vaccination programs, even through your civilian employer. The goal is to rapidly and safely vaccinate as many Sailors as possible.
WICHMANN: Why can’t my NOSC just get it for me?
BOWES: A great question. We get this a lot. The reality is that NOSCs aren’t part of the distribution for the vaccine – it’s through the MTFs. NOSCs lack the storage capability necessary to hold the vaccine. Now, there is hope that perhaps a new vaccine will come out that doesn’t have the temperature requirements as the current vaccine, but it might be awhile.
WICHMANN: So, I’m not getting it on a drill weekend?
BOWES: Well, again, it depends on your NOSC. All the NOSCs have been directed to coordinate with their nearest MTF to help get their Sailors vaccinated, but every NOSC has a different situation. Your NOSC may be fortunate enough to be located close to a MTF with the vaccine, or it may not. In any case, your NOSC will have a better sense of what’s possible.
WICHMANN: Ok, somewhat related - if I am enrolled in a TRICARE health plan, can I get the COVID-19 vaccine from a pharmacy?
BOWES: Yes, absolutely when it’s available, you should get it. Just remember to bring your vaccination card back to your unit.
WICHMANN: So, one of my friends said the COVID-19 vaccine is not mandatory for Reserve Sailors?
BOWES: Correct, and this is true of all service members. Vaccination is strongly encouraged, but voluntary, as long as the vaccines have an Emergency Use Authorization.
WICHMANN: If I get the vaccine, do I still have to wear a mask?
BOWES: Definitely you do Chief. And here’s why, for two reasons. First, the vaccine’s effectiveness takes some time to build up. For example, one of these vaccines takes about two weeks to start becoming effective, and still won’t have the full effect until after the second vaccination. A second reason is that while the evidence is extremely strong that it will certainly protect the ones getting the vaccine, we still don’t know yet whether or not the vaccine will stop the spread of the virus to others. For example, you could get the vaccine… become immune yourself to the virus…later on catch the virus…but not get sick… but still possibly spread it to someone else. Essentially, we still need to wear masks to protect each other.
WICHMANN: Ok, just to make sure I’ve got this; I need to check with my NOSC to coordinate getting the vaccine with my local MTF; if not available, I can check with a civilian resource like a pharmacy; and lastly, always make sure to document my vaccination?
BOWES: Absolutely Chief, and yes, please help make sure our Sailors understand this. Because here is the bottom line – if we use all tools available to sink COVID, like wearing masks, social distancing, and getting the vaccine, the sooner we can get back to a normal routine.
WICHMANN: Right on sir. Thanks for your time!
(U.S. Navy video by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Craig Rodarte)
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