Hundreds of thousands of US military personnel remain unvaccinated against COVID as deadline approaches
Hundreds of thousands of US servicemen remain unvaccinated or have only been partially vaccinated against the coronavirus as the deadline to get the injection draws closer.
Vaccination rates vary between military branches, according to data obtained by the Washington Post, with 98 percent of the active navy fully vaccinated.
There are nearly 340,000 such staff members, and the two percent who have not been stabbed represent nearly 7,000 people.
Meanwhile, only 72 percent of the 181,000 active Marine Corps personnel have been vaccinated — meaning nearly 51,000 have yet to have the shot.
Both departments must be fully vaccinated by November 28, under the Defense Department’s mandate in August.
Figures show that 81 percent of military personnel are fully vaccinated. That branch of the military has 485,000 members, and the 19 percent who are unvaccinated represents more than 95,000 personnel.
And more than 60,000 people in the Air Force have just three weeks to meet their deadline to be fully vaccinated.
However, the percentage is worse for members of the Army National Guard and Army Reserves – who have until June to meet the vaccination requirement.
Military officials said rates have varied due to the dizzying deadlines, and have expressed hope that vaccination rates will increase as the deadlines draw closer.
Hundreds of thousands of military personnel remain unvaccinated or partially vaccinated despite deadlines to do so. Here, Sergeant First Class Demetrius Roberson administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a soldier on September 9, 2021 in Fort Knox, Kentucky
Since the start of the pandemic, about a quarter of a million military personnel have been infected with the virus and more than 2,000 have been killed, with a major outbreak last year aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt demonstrating how quickly the virus could spread at close range.
The outbreak served as a wake-up call as the ship lay ashore for two months after about 1,100 crew members were infected and one soldier died.
In August, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced he was seeking President Joe Biden’s approval to require all military personnel to be vaccinated against the virus. which the president later approved.
He said in a statement at the time that he strongly supports Austin’s decision, noting that the plan would add the COVID vaccine “by mid-September” to the list of required vaccinations for our service employees,” the statement said. Associated Press.
Biden added that the country is still in wartime and “getting vaccinated will enable our military to stay healthy, better protect their families and ensure that our force is ready to operate anywhere in the world.”
Under the plan, all 2.1 million troops should be vaccinated against COVID, and exceptions to the rule would be rare.
Those who would refuse a COVID injection would be punished.
Since then, the Washington Post reports, the military’s number of vaccines has skyrocketed, with a 292 percent increase in the number of personnel who began a vaccine regimen in the Marine Corps.
Vaccination rates differ between military branches
Still, some remain hesitant, even though military members receive 17 mandatory vaccines when they sign up for service.
“Army policy encourages inaction until the latest possible date,” said Katherine Kuzminski, a military expert with the Center for a New American Security, as the plans require the Army Reserve and National Guard to be fully vaccinated in eight months.
“The way we’ve seen the virus evolve tells us that looking forward to June 30 may need to be reconsidered,” she said.
The Army’s National Guard and Reserve is made up of about 522,000 soldiers — about a quarter of the entire army, but barely 40 percent are fully vaccinated, according to the Post.
The two sites are also responsible for nearly 40 percent of service member’s 62 deaths from the coronavirus.
Members of the two divisions are typically older than their active-duty counterparts, and their civilian jobs or mobilizations may expose them to COVID more often than full-time troops living and working in isolated barracks.
The army. however, defended the June deadline in the Washington Post story, saying the date reflects the size of its reserves compared to other services and military reserve components, as well as the limitations imposed by the geographic distribution of its members.
The pandemic has made it more difficult for Reserve members to meet in person and review their medical records.
About half of them do not live near military health clinics that administer the vaccine, the military said, and it has instructed soldiers on how to upload documents showing that they have received shots from non-military providers.
“We expect all unvaccinated soldiers to get the vaccine as best they can,” Lieutenant Colonel Terence M. Kelley, an army spokesman, said in a statement. “Individual soldiers should get the vaccine if it’s available.”
He also noted that the June deadline “gives spare part units time to update records and process exemption requests.”
But Rep. Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the reserve deadline was “alarming” and could negatively affect the agency’s ability to mobilize troops between now and next summer.
They have been deployed for duty more than ever since World War II in 2020, amid political unrest, wildfires and the coronavirus pandemic.
In response, however, the military said that guards or reserve soldiers mobilized after December 15 on federal orders — when the military is to be fully vaccinated — should be immunized when they leave their home stations.
The move could delay the relocation of personnel who have not yet started their vaccine regiment.
The military has previously faced a backlash for its vaccine mandates, with about 16 percent of pilots and crew members in Air Force reserve units seeking either a transfer to another unit to slow down anthrax vaccine regiments in the 1990s. to an idle state or operate the all together.
Now, the Post reports, defense officials are reluctant to predict how many soldiers would defy the mandate, though Texas Representative Dan Crenshaw tweeted last month that he expects it to be a lot.
“Question for the SECDEF: Are you really filling in to facilitate a massive exodus of experienced military personnel just because they don’t want to take the vaccine,” he wrote.
“Frankly, Americans deserve to know how you plan to handle this battle of forcing readiness — it’s already causing serious problems.”
Some Air Force officers have already joined other government officials in lawsuits to stop the requirements, the Post reports.
Meanwhile, according to CDC data, 65.3 percent of all Americans have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine and 56.4 percent are fully vaccinated.