Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Schutt, NCG 1
As of April 19, 2021, all Department of Defense-eligible and authorized adults are now able to make an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at their local Military Treatment Facility (MTF). However, some still wrestle with the decision on whether to receive their vaccine or not.
Several West Coast Seabees shared their thoughts on why they want the vaccine and, in some cases, why they changed their mind. Many Sailors were skeptical of the vaccine due to how quickly it was created.
Lt. Charlotte Schalles, Naval Construction Group (NCG) 1’s only pregnant Sailor to receive the vaccine, decided to get the vaccine after learning of the proven, increased risk of negative side effects on the vascular system if she contracted COVID-19.
Schalles wanted to share the vaccines antibodies with her new baby.
“I understand that the vaccination of any type is an incredibly personal decision, and I respect everyone’s individual choice. I believe that by becoming vaccinated, I am giving my baby the best shot they can have at avoiding a COVID infection,” said Schalles.
At 31 weeks pregnant and with the advice of her doctors, Schalles chose to get the vaccine as soon as it was available. According to the CDC, there are no proven adverse side effects to women who are pregnant, their babies or women who wish to become pregnant.
“I was planning on deferring the vaccine, because of all the unknowns and a good deal of misinformation being spread on the internet. Once I took a logical, statistical look at the risks of vaccination vs. the risks of COVID, I was able to see that for me personally, the risks of the vaccine were far less than the risks of contracting COVID. I truly feel that I am doing what is best for my health and my unborn baby’s health,” said Schalles.
Yeoman 2nd Class Camille Harrington of North Hollywood, California, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 5, was a firm believer in the science and process it takes to create a safe and effective vaccine. Still, she chose to defer inoculation.
“I was a little weary of injecting something into my body that I felt was rushed,” she said.
Ultimately, the turning point for Harrington was family. They reminded her that the nature of her job, as a service member, inherently puts her at risk.
“I did explain to them the strict guidelines we service members must follow and how I never went out and put myself at unnecessary risk,” said Harrington. “With the move from Health Protection Condition (HPCON) Charlie to HPCON Bravo, I wanted to be able to do the things that we’ve been deprived of for so long.”
With the safety and health protocols now in place, Harrington chose to receive the vaccine help mitigate the risk to her family and others and start enjoying more activities with the peace of mind that she would be protected.
“I’m okay with my decision, so if or when the pandemic is truly under control, then I would feel like it was worth it and I did my part,” she added.
Builder 2nd Class Chance Freeman, from Saint Michael, Minnesota, assigned to NMCB-3, also chose to receive his vaccine because of family.
Similarly to Harrington, Freeman was initially hesitant with the unknowns, misleading information and varying opinions and viewpoints.
“People were saying all these crazy things, and I didn’t really know what to believe, which made me almost afraid to take it. Speaking with my family changed my mind. I ended up considering that if more people get the vaccine, it will help things start to open up faster and get our lives back to normal, which is what we all want,” Said Freeman.
Despite his initial reservations, Freeman is using his experience to encourage other service members to receive their vaccines as well.
“Yes, the vaccine is still very new, but it’s something that I want to get if it will help. I think talking to people makes them a little less scared of any potential side effects and actually makes them look into it more on their own,” said Freeman.
Balancing the risk versus reward, these Seabees took a stand for what they felt was the right decision for their shipmates, family, and community. While the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine remains paused until further notice, MTFs are still administering the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Service Members interested in receiving a vaccine should contact their local MTF to make an appointment. All eligible DoD-eligible and authorized adults are now able to make an appointment at their local MTF’s earliest availability. This supports President Biden’s direction to make the vaccine available to all eligible and authorized adults by April 19, 2021.