CAMP PENDLETON, Calif., –
When Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton rolled out the first round of COVID-19 vaccines just months ago, many uniformed and civilian personnel heavily weighed the pros and cons of receiving their first dose. As the vaccine is made available to more and more units aboard Camp Pendleton, Marines are doing their research and volunteering to take the first step toward immunization.
Marines with Communication Strategy and Operations, Marine Corps Installations West, had the opportunity to receive their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine in late March. They are scheduled to receive their second dose mid-April.
“I was kind of on the fence about getting the COVID-19 Vaccine at first because I wasn’t sure if it had been fully vetted,” said Sgt. Jeremy Laboy, combat photographer, Communication Strategy and Operations, Marine Corps Installations West. Laboy’s hesitancy was a feeling not uncommon at the time that vaccines were first introduced to fight this virus. However, Laboy took his education into his own hands and was able to dispel some of the rumors he had heard. Through his research, he learned that mRNA vaccines have been studied for decades before the pandemic began, and through dense clinical trials, have demonstrated themselves to be safe for the general public.
“What ended up convincing me was talking to my doctor about it and understanding that my own family members are getting older and, therefore, at-risk. I stepped up in order to do my part in protecting them,” said Laboy.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was only made available after it had demonstrated itself to be safe and effective in large phase-three clinical trials, had been authorized by the FDA under the EUA, and had been manufactured and distributed safely and securely.
“I hope that other Marines get the vaccine as well so by this time next year the risk won’t be so high." Sgt. Matthew Kirk, 1st Marine Division combat photographer
Sgt. Matthew Kirk, combat photographer, Communication Strategy and Operations, 1st Marine Division, had a fear other than the vaccine itself when it came to making his decision. “I personally don’t like needles, but I powered through it and it was actually quick and easy.” Kirk said he is looking forward to receiving his second dose in just a few weeks, despite having to come into contact with another needle.
The process for selected units to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been streamlined by healthcare professionals at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton while maintaining the safety of recipients. Personnel receiving the vaccine are kept socially distanced at all times and are given clear instructions to quickly move them from one station to the other. After the administration of the vaccine, Marines and civilian employees are monitored for 15 minutes to ensure they can receive immediate medical attention in the event of a rare allergic reaction.
A Marine combat photographer with Communication Strategy and Operations, Marine Corps Installations West, said that he simply wanted to do his part in stopping the spread. “I am still going to wear my mask even when I am fully vaccinated because I can still transmit the virus even if I myself won’t get sick,” said the combat photographer.
The COVID-19 vaccination is still voluntary, yet beneficiaries and Marine Corps personnel are encouraged to get vaccinated now more than ever to keep COVID-19 cases down. Vaccines are being administered in a phased approach, and individuals are encouraged to stay up-to-date on which phase is currently underway.
“I hope that other Marines get the vaccine as well so by this time next year the risk won’t be so high,” said the combat photographer. He expresses a feeling that is echoed throughout the country — the COVID-19 pandemic has been going on too long and has affected too many people.
Marines will continue to wear appropriate masks, practice social distancing, regularly wash their hands, and follow restriction of movement guidelines to maintain the safety of others as a large portion of the population will need to be vaccinated before COVID-19 risks diminish. However, the increasing availability of the vaccine continues to foster hope for bringing the pandemic to an end in the near future.
Taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is a duty that Marines aboard Camp Pendleton do not take lightly. The opportunity for installation personnel to receive the COVID-19 vaccine has opened another door for service members to protect those around them and increase their readiness for when the nation calls.