While one COVID-19 vaccine rolled out across America this week and another stands on the cusp of federal approval, the Navy’s top officer is encouraging the fleet to get the jab.

In a message to the fleet Tuesday, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday wrote that he will receive the vaccine “shortly after it is made available to senior DoD leadership.”

Officials expect Gilday to get his shot as soon as next week.

The Pfizer vaccine was distributed at military medical facilities across the country this week, but for now, getting the two-shot vaccine will be voluntary and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has only granted the vaccine an emergency use authorization at this point.

Still, Gilday wrote that he hopes sailors will get vaccinated when they have the chance.

“I ask that every member of our Navy team strongly consider receiving the vaccine not only for yourself, but for your shipmates, your family and your fellow citizens,” Gilday wrote. “By maximizing vaccination among our force and maintaining our mitigation measures of physical distancing, mask wearing and hand washing, we will begin the return to normal.”

Gilday said in his fleet message and at Senate testimony earlier this month that the vaccine will first be given to Navy health care workers and first responders most at risk of exposure.

Health care personnel at several Navy hospitals began receiving the first shot this week.

“Vaccinating this population will take time, likely into January,” he wrote. “We will make the vaccine available more broadly through a tiered plan as production ramps up, prioritizing those executing our most critical missions.”

Those with questions about the vaccine should contact their medical provider.

“Navy leadership, all of us, remain committed to being transparent about the vaccine delivery and dissemination plan,” Gilday wrote.

Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at geoffz@militarytimes.com.

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