Midshipmen will begin to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as early as Thursday after the Department of the Navy authorized the Naval Academy to administer it, according to an academy announcement Monday evening.
The first midshipmen to receive the vaccine will be those participating in summer training, beginning May 15, Superintendent Vice Adm. Sean Buck said in testimony to Congress on March 2. His timeline, which he presented to the Navy, had the remaining midshipmen vaccinated in April.
"The Navy has prioritized vaccinating the operational forces first, and they're developing very safe and healthy bubbles," Buck said in a statement. "For midshipmen to participate in summer training programs to meet Navy requirements, we need to begin vaccinating them now."
The Naval Academy is currently experiencing an outbreak of COVID-19, with nearly 200 midshipmen temporarily residing in local hotels to increase quarantine and isolation space within Bancroft Hall. The Naval Academy cannot release the number or estimate of midshipmen diagnosed with the disease because of operational security, said spokesperson Cmdr. Alana Garas.
While the midshipmen are currently in hotels, the academy is exploring all options for isolation and quarantine space if the coronavirus continues to spread, Garas said in a Friday email. During the H1N1 pandemic, ill midshipmen were placed in squash courts that had been converted to an isolation space complete with bathrooms and showers.
Based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, midshipmen who are allowed to leave isolation will be allowed to return to their rooms in Bancroft Hall, Garas said.
"We know that there are new strains of COVID in the United States to include Virginia and Maryland," Garas said in her email. "We do not yet know to what extent these new strains are affecting us, but it would be prudent to assume that these new variants are impacting our situation and the rapid increase in cases at USNA."
The Naval Academy is testing randomly weekly and any midshipmen that might be symptomatic or had close contact with someone who is sick.
Midshipmen who receive the vaccine do so on a voluntary basis, as the vaccine is still on an Emergency Use Authorization. If the vaccine receives a license from the Federal Drug Administration, it could become mandatory. The press release did not say if the midshipmen will receive the Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
Midshipmen who opt out of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine will not be able to participate in the Fleet summer cruise training, Garas said in a statement.
"This decision was made to reduce the risk of infection to Fleet Sailors on operational units," Garas said in the statement.
Midshipmen who were treated with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma for COVID-19 will need to wait 90 days before receiving a vaccine, according to CDC guidelines.
The Naval Academy will continue its schedule of vaccinating faculty, staff and employees who fall under Navy Phase 1B, including those who are deploying, frontline essential workers, those older than 75 and those with jobs that fall under critical national capabilities, according to the Department of Defense.
Those who fall under 1B can get vaccinated once the vaccines are available, according to the release.
This article is written by Heather Mongilio from The Capital, Annapolis, Md. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.