Japan Navy Commander expects fully vaccinated force ahead of November 28 deadline

A sailor receives his first dose of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine earlier this year at Naval Base Yokosuka, Japan. (Quinton Lee / US Navy)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan – All active duty Sailors stationed ashore in Japan should be fully immunized against the coronavirus well ahead of the Navy’s 90-day deadline, according to the commander of the Japan Naval Forces.

Rear Admiral Carl Lahti, who also commands the Japan Naval Region, recently told Stars and Stripes that while he can’t predict when his command will reach 100%, he expects it to happen more. earlier than the November 28 deadline, in part because of vaccine availability.

“We are currently administering the vaccinations and we believe that we have enough vaccines in the country and that we have pushed them to our medical clinics so that we can finish them now,” he said.

Japanese Naval Forces spokesperson Cmdr. Katie Cerezo told Stars and Stripes on Tuesday by phone that she was not authorized to say what percentage of all American sailors in Japan are currently vaccinated.

Lahti said a high percentage of active and civilian service personnel in Japan had already been vaccinated before the Navy Secretary’s tenure, a fact which he said contributes to the low number of active coronavirus cases at facilities in the Navy. the Navy in Japan. The Japanese naval forces make up about 6,000 of the approximately 54,000 US military personnel in the country, according to US forces in Japan.

“We have been able to manage the infection rate, mainly through our vaccination rate,” Lahti said. “Although we still face some cases, it is much lower than in other communities and has no impact on operations.”

Yokosuka Naval Base reported 38 active cases on Tuesday, Atsugi Naval Air Station reported five cases on Monday and Sasebo Naval Base reported 19 on Friday.

As controversy around the vaccine continued to escalate in the United States, Lahti said there had been no “large-scale resistance” to the Navy mandate. He also recognized the importance of discussing vaccine concerns with healthcare professionals.

“Everything about your health is really an individual matter between you and your health care provider,” he said. “We strongly encourage sailors to talk to their individual medical providers about the vaccine and understand the importance of getting vaccinated and why we would make it mandatory.”

Lahti’s schedule follows an administrative message from Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro released on August 30, which gave active-duty sailors and Marines 90 days to be fully immunized. Reservists had 120 days.

The order followed a similar mandate from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who on August 24 called on all services to vaccinate their troops as soon as possible. Lloyd’s order was given just a day after the Food and Drug Administration approved the two-shot Pfizer BioNTech vaccine.

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