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New Military Health Marketplace Ready For Mandatory COVID Vaccine

Sailors in mask walk between buildings at Naval Medical Center San Diego, Aug. 10, 2021.
Steve Walsh
Sailors in mask walk between buildings at Naval Medical Center San Diego, Aug. 10, 2021.

The military health care system in San Diego is prepared to vaccinate all troops against COVID, as soon as it becomes mandatory.

The Naval hospitals at Balboa and Camp Pendleton have administered roughly 250,000 doses of the COVID vaccine since it became available. It’s actually a fraction of the vaccines already given out by the two hospitals each year, said Rear Adm. Tim Weber, commander of Naval Medical Forces Pacific, during an event to announce a new partnership for facilities serving active-duty troops and their families in San Diego.

New Military Health Marketplace Ready For Mandatory COVID Vaccine
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Weber said the medical forces give hundreds of thousands of vaccines each year.


“So, we know how to do vaccines," he said. "And we know how to do vaccines on a mass scale because we do it every year.”

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has asked the president to require the vaccine for active-duty troops as soon as Sept. 15. Roughly 70% of active-duty troops in San Diego have been vaccinated, which is in line with the rest of the active-duty military, higher than the 50% for the California National Guard. Still, there has been resistance, said Capt. Kim Davis, director of Naval Medical Center San Diego.

“We’ve educated folks where we can. We know that any vaccine can have potential side effects," she said. "However, we know the long-term consequence of COVID-19 infections can be severe.”

Until it becomes mandatory, the Pentagon is relying on encouraging troops to seek out good information, Defense Health Agency Director Lt. Gen. Ronald Place said.

“The knowledge that we have," Place said. "The data that we look at are really overwhelmingly positive. These vaccines are among the most effective vaccines we’ve ever seen, with a safety profile among the safe that we’ve ever seen.”


Place was in San Diego on Tuesday to unveil a new combined medical marketplace for troops, retirees and their families. Part of a nationwide consolidation of military medicine, plans were put on hold for a year, while they grappled with the pandemic.

The new system is supposed to allow local military patients to move between the military hospitals and their clinics, as well as the VA and private doctors to form a more cohesive system.

Corrected: October 3, 2023 at 4:07 PM PDT
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story quoted Rear Adm. Tim Weber saying his naval medical team vaccinates "500 (million) to 600 million vaccinations every year." He misspoke. The correct number was 500 to 600 thousand vaccinations. KPBS regrets the error.