Navy to offer booster shots on ship stalled by COVID-19 outbreak

Associated Press/Michael Sohn

The Navy is offering booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines to sailors on the ship stalled by a coronavirus outbreak.

Dawn Grimes, a spokesperson for US Naval Hospital at Guantánamo Bay, told The Hill it is responding to a request from the USS Milwaukee to provide booster doses, which will be administered by the ship’s medical crew to crew members who want one.

Cmdr. Kate Meadows, a spokesperson for U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command, told The Hill in a statement that booster doses would not be mandatory. 

“The Milwaukee has been coordinating with naval station hospital personnel on when boosters could be administered to the Sailors, to those personnel who are interested in receiving one,” Meadows said. “While we recommend boosters,  they are not mandatory for the crew.” 

Meadows added that no booster doses have been administered. 

News of the booster doses was first reported by The Washington Post

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin mandated vaccinations for all members of the military in late August. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby has said that Defense leaders are weighing mandatory boosters, but no decision has been made.

In a policy guidance released Dec. 21, the Navy advised sailors to receive booster shots, adding the third dose is “essentially becoming the next-shot in a series and will likely become mandatory in the near future.”

The Milwaukee departed from Mayport, Fla., on Dec. 14 for its regularly scheduled deployment to the U.S. 4th Fleet region. 

But last Friday, the Navy said the vessel was staying in port at Naval Station Guantánamo Bay after some sailors tested positive. The ship was at Guantánamo for a scheduled port visit.

The Navy said at the time that the ship’s crew was “100% immunized,” and those who tested positive for COVID-19 had been placed in quarantine. A portion of the infected sailors exhibited mild symptoms.

Grimes told The Hill that none of the sailors who tested positive for COVID-19 have required hospitalization.

Updated: 12:55 p.m.

Tags John Kirby Lloyd Austin

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