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NEWS | June 22, 2021

NUWC Division Newport employees get vaccinations through partnership with Naval Health Clinic New England

By NUWC Division Newport Public Affairs

More than 1,200 Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport employees were vaccinated against the coronavirus during the past few months through short-notice opportunities at the Naval Health Clinic New England (NHCNE) located on Naval Station Newport.

Government, military and contractor employees were allowed to receive Moderna or Pfizer vaccine doses that were in danger of being discarded because they were already opened and intended for someone who canceled an appointment. Within hours of notification of available doses, Corporate Operations Department staff and volunteers would reach out to employees to get them signed up for the vaccine that day.

“It had to be instantaneous,” said Vicki Comeau, head, Corporate Operations Department.

The effort, led by Elaine Trainor, an administrative officer in the department, began when the health clinic contacted Division Newport in January for a list of employees who were interested in getting a vaccine. This prompted an all-hands message from leadership with information on how to sign up, and more than 900 employees requested to be on the initial list.

Once notified by the health clinic of an available dose, Trainor would contact the next eligible person on the list and schedule an appointment. The opportunity for vaccinations arose during a time when the vaccines were hard to come by, Trainor said. The early availability of vaccines brought some relief in a yearlong fight against the coronavirus.

“I was very thankful to hear from Elaine for a shot appointment,” Jennifer O’Leary, head, Trainer Technology Development Branch, said. “For me, this was the beginning of the end of the pandemic — the light at the end of the tunnel was starting to get brighter.”

Those early days in the notification process were challenging, Trainor said, as all information and data was collected and tracked manually using spreadsheet rosters. The initial form included criteria defined by the Department of Defense (DOD), such as level of mission critical tasking, age and at-risk employees who had pre-existing health conditions.

As the volume of extra doses started to increase and factors were changing by the hour, Trainor humorously visualized the well-known “I Love Lucy” episode when Lucy and Ethel work in a candy factory for a day, assigned to wrap chocolates passing by on a conveyer belt. As the belt speeds up and the volume increases, the two are forced to eat and hide the surplus to avoid any waste.

“It really felt like that! I tried to keep a sense of humor about it, and worked really hard because I was very proud to support the mission,” Trainor said.

To handle tasking, Trainor worked closely with Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Sutherland, homeport clinic manager, and Hospital Corpsman Timothy Williams, chief liaison, both of the Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command (NMRTC) New England. A clinic was set up at the at Naval Station Newport Officer’s Club where employees would respond to get the shot.

“NUWC was more than willing to make last-minute calls to fill extra doses,” Williams said. “There was a day in particular that we had roughly 50 extra doses, and Elaine managed to get all 50 of those shots filled. NUWC has been one of our best commands to work with.”

Human Resources Division employees Al Haughton, supervisor, Labor and Employee Relations Branch, and Janet Igo, administrative/technical specialist and telework program coordinator, assisted the process and updated a site created for reporting.

Staff also helped 60 employees at Division Newport’s detachments and in off-site assignments by sharing information about vaccination opportunities. When 100 doses opened up at the Groton Sub Base in Connecticut, Trainor and her team were able to fill every available appointment.

Around mid-April, when DOD criteria was opening up and more vaccine doses became available, the logistics transitioned to a self-service format on the health clinic’s website, allowing employees to schedule future appointments themselves.

After several months of getting hundreds of extra doses of the vaccine into the arms of Division Newport employees, Trainor is proud of her record of accomplishment.

“It was the first day; we were offered 16 doses and used 15. I missed one! After that, we used everything offered to us. If it was sent our way, we took advantage of it,” she said.

NUWC Division Newport is a shore command of the U.S. Navy within the Naval Sea Systems Command, which engineers, builds and supports America’s fleet of ships and combat systems. NUWC Newport provides research, development, test and evaluation, engineering and fleet support for submarines, autonomous underwater systems, undersea offensive and defensive weapons systems, and countermeasures associated with undersea warfare.

NUWC Newport is the oldest warfare center in the country, tracing its heritage to the Naval Torpedo Station established on Goat Island in Newport Harbor in 1869. Commanded by Capt. Chad Hennings, NUWC Newport maintains major detachments in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Andros Island in the Bahamas, as well as test facilities at Seneca Lake and Fisher's Island, New York, Leesburg, Florida, and Dodge Pond, Connecticut.