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Marines, Sailors with PHIBRON 11, 31st MEU receive COVID-19 vaccine

Military health personnel giving the COVID-19 Vaccine to military personnel Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Javier Flores injects a COVID-19 vaccination to Navy Retail Specialist Seaman Jordan Davis aboard amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans. New Orleans, part of the America Expeditionary Strike Group, along with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kelby Sanders).

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In a critical move for readiness, resiliency and safety, ships of Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11 received their first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine last weekend in Okinawa, Japan.

The amphibious transport dock USS New Orleans, along with the amphibious dock landing ships USS Germantown and USS Ashland, in cooperation with U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa and the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, rolled up their sleeves for their first dose of the vaccine.

“As the premier crisis response force in the Indo-Pacific, we have to be ready to respond to the region’s needs at a moment’s notice,” said Navy Capt. Richard LeBron, PHIBRON 11 commodore. “The better protected we are against the coronavirus, the greater assurance I can give our fleet commanders that our ships, Sailors and Marines are without a doubt always here and always ready to fight and deliver when called upon.

“Doing our part to help sink COVID is a huge step for these three ships as they continue to operate throughout the AOR, execute complex and challenging missions, and interact with our allies and partners,” said LeBron.

Vaccination for service members is voluntary, as vaccines are currently authorized for emergency use. Aboard New Orleans, the vast majority of the crew chose to receive the shot.

“The New Orleans crew has shown exceptional resilience in facing COVID-19 over the past year,” said Navy Capt. Brian Schrum, the ship’s commanding officer. “This vaccine will keep our Sailors safe, ready, and confident in our ability to operate forward and overcome any challenges we may encounter.”

Germantown, which recently celebrated the 35th anniversary of the ship’s commissioning, also saw the majority of the crew elect to get the vaccine.

“Following a concerted educational campaign led by our medical team, most of the crew chose to receive the vaccine,” said Navy Cmdr. Cullen Greenfield, Germantown’s commanding officer. “The pandemic has brought many trials, but the Germantown and her crew are resilient, flexible, and creative in meeting those challenges – we expect the vaccine will improve our ability to remain a ready force, stay healthy and operational, and sink COVID.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, those receiving the Moderna vaccine should receive the second dose 28 days after the first dose.

“Once a Sailor or Marine is fully vaccinated with both their first and second dose of the Moderna vaccine, they should expect over ninety-four percent efficacy in preventing disease from COVID-19, which will virtually eliminate the risk of severe disease or death during an outbreak at sea,” said Navy Cmdr. Hamilton Tilley, Expeditionary Strike Group 7’s task force surgeon. “Receiving just the first vaccine dose gives significant protection and is the first step in not only protecting themselves but their family as well as fellow Sailors and Marines.”

Amphibious Squadron 11, the Navy’s only forward-deployed amphibious squadron, along with embarked Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility to enhance interoperability with allies and partners, and serve as a ready response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

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