Eisenhower strike group to get COVID-19 vaccines

Sailors assigned to USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) man the rails as the ship returns to Naval Station Norfolk on Aug. 9, 2020, after a regularly scheduled deployment.


By DAVE RESS | The Daily Press | Published: February 14, 2021

Stars and Stripes is making stories on the coronavirus pandemic available free of charge. See other free reports here. Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter here. Please support our journalism with a subscription.

(Tribune News Service) — Though recent polls show a significant number of Americans are hesitant to get a COVID-19 vaccine, more than 80% of sailors on the soon-to-deploy USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group say they’re committed to getting the shots.

The Navy’s first trial run of shipboard vaccination, aboard Norfolk-based USS San Antonio earlier this month, was so successful that it is rolling out an effort for the 5,000 sailors of the strike group.

“This is the first time in a good while that we can talk about COVID and good news in the same sentence,” said Vice Adm. Andrew, Lewis, commander of the 2nd Fleet, adding “it’s really exciting for the Eisenhower Strike Group because we’re going to send them over the horizon here in a few days, having received their first vaccination.”

Vaccination is voluntary in the Navy, which gives sailors about to deploy a high priority for the shots.

The strike group ran shipwide campaigns as well as small group information sessions to answer questions and explain why the Navy wanted them to get the shots.

Rear Adm. Scott Robertson, strike group commander, said deckplate leaders — chiefs and leading petty officers — played a key role, along with “the fact that we have some incredibly smart sailors who did their own research from credible sources.”

He said strike group sailors wanted to do their part to end the pandemic and protect their families, and were particularly eager do so because they know supplies are still limited.

The medical personnel on the Eisenhower and the other ships in the strike group are to be trained in handling and administering the vaccines when the carrier returns from exercises at sea.

The plan is to administer a first dose to strike group sailors and the airwing while the ships are at their piers , and the second dose will be given while they are deployed.

The Eisenhower has the necessary kind of cold storage; smaller ships in the strike group may not, but the Navy has plans for getting the booster shots to sailors.

In the meanwhile, sailors on board maintain social distancing, keep group meetings small and wear masks, said Rear Adm. Scott Robertston, the strike group commander.

Strike group sailors have been in restricted sequestration for a couple of weeks before their latest training and certification exercises at sea — and they did that after returning from an earlier at sea operations that ended just before Christmas.

“There weren’t any vaccines available when they first got going ... through the great efforts of the medical community, the logistics community and frankly, the folks inside the Pentagon, freeing up these vaccinations for the Strike Group is just a really great news story,” Lewis said.

Rear Adm. Doug Beal, the vice commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command who is leading the vaccination push said the vaccinations on the USS San Antonio this month, which marked the first time a large group of sailors was vaccinated against COVID-19 outside of a hospital clinic and aboard a ship.

It was because that worked well, that the Navy knows the plan for the Eisenhower strike group will work, he said.


(c)2021 the Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)
Visit the Daily Press (Newport News, Va.) at www.dailypress.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.