U.S. military troops deploying overseas and those charged with critical national security missions are refusing to take voluntary COVID-19 vaccines, according to the Pentagon.
In all, only about 320,000 service members and civilian personnel have been vaccinated, leaving many of the 769,000 doses available to DOD unused.
The military’s experience so far with the virus inoculation mirrors a trend in some parts of the country, where civilians are declining to get jabbed for a host of reasons.
Pentagon officials said as long as the vaccines are under Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization, and are not fully approved, DOD cannot require service members to take the vaccine.
“It’s a voluntary vaccine,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul Friedrichs told the Washington Examiner. When pressed on whether critical DOD personnel were declining to be vaccinated, he replied: “In some cases, yes.”
Friedrichs said a refusal to take the vaccine is not affecting soldier assignments.
He also confirmed that even those responsible for manning America’s nuclear weapons, previously described by officials as a tier group for vaccination, are passing on the voluntary COVID-19 vaccine.
Air Force Global Strike Command spokeswoman Chief Master Sgt. Jill M. LaVoie cited Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 privacy restrictions while declining to disclose how many nuclear operators had refused the vaccination.
“Because we believe that the COVID-19 vaccine is the important next step to fortifying our forces, we are encouraging our Airmen receive the vaccination but this is a personal decision for each of our Strikers to make,” LaVoie said in a statement, referring to the missileers headquartered at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, which oversees 400 ICBM sites spread across six western sites.
In an effort to demonstrate the vaccine’s safety and ensure nuclear surety, 20th Air Force Commander Major Gen. Michael Lutton was photographed receiving a COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 8.
The denials are leaving hundreds of thousands of DOD-allocated doses unused.
Some 8.8% of service members are testing positive for COVID-19, compared to 9.2% in the general population. Between 65,000 and 80,000 coronavirus tests are administered to DOD personnel globally each week.
As of Thursday, 138,763 coronavirus cases had been reported among active-duty service members. Increased hospitalizations and the unsettling uptick in cases are consistent with rising nationwide cases, Friedrich told defense reporters.
Older DOD personnel are accepting the vaccine at higher rates, and second-tier front-line workers, including teachers, are being offered the vaccine at 306 sites globally.
Within the ranks, more education is needed, LaVoie said.
“Our medical professionals will continue to educate our personnel on the vaccination so that they can best make that decision for themselves,” she added, noting the virus had caused “no mission impacts.”
“There are people in, I think, every walk of life across our country who are making this choice as they’re offered the opportunity to get vaccinated,” Friedrichs said. “This is truly remarkable, for a vaccine to be this safe is quite heartening,” the top Pentagon surgeon said of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines offered to service members.
Read more at www.washingtonexaminer.com
Written by Abraham Mahshie