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CNO, MCPON Answer COVID Vaccine Questions From the Fleet

27 January 2021

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russ Smith answered questions from Fleet Sailors about the COVID Vaccine, and shared thoughts about why Sailors should get the vaccine.

VIDEO | 04:34 | CNO and MCPON Message to the Fleet on the COVID Vaccine 210126-N-TR763-2001 WASHINGTON (Jan. 26, 2021) A video slate for Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Mike Gilday and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Russ Smith's message to the Fleet regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. (U.S. Navy Graphic by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Nick Brown/Released)

Below is a transcript of the video you can see here:

CNO: Shipmates, CNO Gilday here today again with MCPON. As you know, our Navy has begun to administer the COVID-19 vaccines across the Fleet. And in the coming weeks and months ahead, more Sailors and Civilians will be eligible to receive them as vaccine production continues to ramp up.

MCPON: The COVID-19 vaccine will help stop the pandemic. And using all tools available to us, including the vaccine and public health measures like wearing a mask and physical distancing, will continue to prevent the virus from spreading.

CNO: MCPON and I have both received the vaccine, and during our recent trip to 5th and 6th Fleets, we saw first-hand the impressive work happening across the Fleet to administer vaccines to our Sailors and Civilians forward deployed.

MCPON: Sailors who have received the vaccine have stepped up and taken action to protect themselves, their shipmates, the Navy and our Nation. And for that we commend you.

CNO: Today, in addition to talking a little bit about the progress we’re making across the Fleet with COVID vaccinations, we also wanted to take some time to address some questions that Sailors across the Fleet have asked us about the vaccine.

MCPON: One question in particular many have asked – including FC3 Cameron Parrish from the USS Shiloh - is why is this vaccine voluntary and not mandatory.

CNO: Good question FC3. Drugs and vaccines have to be approved by the FDA to ensure only safe and effective products are available to the American public. In situations like this, when there is good scientific reason to believe a product is safe and is likely to treat or prevent disease – which there is in this case - the FDA authorized its emergency use under specific circumstances. Vaccines authorized for emergency use are not mandatory. Bottom line – the FDA has evaluated the vaccine as safe, but it will remain voluntary until official FDA approval. That said, it is impossible to contract COVID from the vaccine. It does not include any live virus.

MCPON: Another thing that has come up has been a question about repercussions for not volunteering to get the vaccine. YN2 Mykell Taylor, from COMSUBLANT asked in particular if it will affect leave or liberty.

CNO: Let me be clear here – while the COVID vaccine is voluntary, there will not be consequences for saying no at this time – to include the loss of leave or liberty.  But, we urge each and every one of you to consider strongly getting this vaccine.

MCPON: Some, including IC1 Devin Haley on board USS John C. Stennis, have also asked when COVID mitigation measures will be reevaluated and if we still need to wear masks and practice social distancing if vaccinated? The answer IC1, is yes, for now. We must continue to wear masks and practice social distancing until the risk of COVID-19 is substantially reduced. But we will continue to evaluate this going forward as we return to normal.

CNO: Last question we’ve been asked a lot, including from FN Kelley aboard USS Essex, is why should we get the vaccine, and what side effects might it have? FN Kelley, while there is no way to know exactly how the COVID-19 will affect you, what we do know is the vaccine has been given to nearly 40,000 of your shipmates with little to no side effects. Additionally, it’s about 95% effective at preventing mild or severe COVID-19 cases. The short answer: I strongly urge you to protect yourself, your shipmates and your family by getting the vaccine when you’re eligible for it.

MCPON: Shipmates, I can’t tell you how proud we are of the U.S. Navy’s response to COVID-19. The low numbers of positives – less than 1% of our force - is grounded in the individual responsibility of our Sailors and leadership at the deck plate level. And for that we thank you.

CNO: Well said, MCPON. Together, along with this vaccine and your continued vigilance, we will Sink COVID. See you in the Fleet, Shipmates.


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