HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Thousands of sailors and civilians are getting COVID shots at Pearl Harbor as part of a massive operation by the Navy to vaccinate as many people as possible.
The mass vaccinations are happening at Bloch Arena on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
Commanders say getting people vaccinated against COVID-19 is part of military readiness ― essential to national security.
“We have basically taken a war-like posture at times,” said Capt. Chris Tepera, commanding officer of Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command Pearl Harbor.
“We see this as a readiness mission because we want to make sure our personnel are able to deploy when the call comes for them,” he added.
The mass vaccination effort includes sailors and civilians who work at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. The sailors administering the vaccine are from Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command.
“Providing this vaccination gives us an opportunity to end this pandemic and hopefully see a return to normalcy in relatively near future,” said Tepera.
Kaipo Crowell, of Kailua, is a nuclear engineer and planning manager at the Pearl Harbor Navy Shipyard. He got his second dose Friday.
“I’m very appreciative of the opportunity to get the vaccine and for the opportunity for my workforce to the get the vaccine,” said Crowell.
“We have 6,500 in our command alone so we are the largest industrial employer in Hawaii so it’s very challenging,” he added.
Christian Bernabe, a 21-year-old hospital corpsman, got vaccinated as well and says he got some arm pain after both shots.
“People had that idea that young people aren’t really affected by it (COVID-19) much. It doesn’t give an excuse that we should be having the same precautions,” said Bernabe.
The military won’t say how many vaccines are going toward Hawaii installations, but the Department of Defense has reported more than 900,000 doses have been administered nationwide.
Some 147,000 service members have gotten both shots. It is voluntary and about one-third of eligible service members have refused the vaccine.
In November, there was a massive outbreak onboard the USS Michael Murphy stationed at Pearl Harbor where 300 sailors are assigned. The Navy wouldn’t confirm how many got sick, but NBC reported about a quarter of the ship’s crew tested positive.
On Friday, those involved with the mass vaccination operation say they are focused on safety and education.
“I believe a lot of the concern may be the fact that this is a new disease, a new vaccine and a new model of vaccine administration,” said Tepera.
Crowell says distancing measures include rotating people out more frequently, barriers and more planning of the work day.