Naval Medical Center Portsmouth starts vaccinating staff


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Naval Medical Center Portsmouth began vaccinating staff members with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday.

The center is the U.S. Navy’s oldest hospital and part of the first round of military facilities to receive the vaccine. It comes a day after they received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

The Department of Defense plans to take a phased approach. Phase 1 will start by giving a small number of the vaccine to health care workers, followed by those responsible for national security, deploying forces and those at high-risk for the virus.

“Every hour, five individuals at the Navy medical center in Portsmouth are getting the COVID-19 vaccine right behind those doors,” said Jason Farbstein, a nurse at the Naval Medical Center.

Farbstein said the prick he felt Wednesday may not have made an immediate change to how he feels in the moment, but down the line, he knows he made the right decision.

“I think that it will be good for me to take care of patients in the future. Vaccines are always great to have,” he said.

On Wednesday, 10 On Your Side was there to watch them administer the vaccines to their front-line healthcare workers as a part of the DoD’s plan. They call this a phased approach. Starting at 7 a.m., they will give five doses every hour until they run out of the vaccine.

“We are healthcare workers and I have a daughter at home, so I’m hoping that I can help her and protect her and anyone else that comes to this hospital, “said Autumn Quinonez, who works in the COVID-19 unit.

For Quinonez, it was a no-brainer to sign up. She is hoping for relief.

“I’m really hoping that outpatient level goes down, ’cause our COVID unit is pretty hot right now,” she said.

The medical director of immunizations, Carl Kronman, confirms the current surge of patients is overwhelming but he now sees hope on the horizon.

“I think for a lot of us, it feels like the light at the end of the tunnel. I take care of COVID patients on the floor and a lot of people getting the vaccine, so a lot of us are tired and we are seeing a surge right now of patients, so timing couldn’t be better,” said Kronman.

There’s no word yet on a new shipment of vaccines in Portsmouth.

Three phases in total will get the vaccine to more than 2 million military members.

The first round of military sites will receive just under 44,000 doses, due to limited supplies. It is unclear how many Portsmouth received Tuesday.

Right now, the shot is voluntary but highly encouraged. A Pentagon spokesperson reports the vaccine will likely be mandatory after licensed approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

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