Hours after the Pfizer vaccine was granted full FDA approval, the Pentagon announced that it was set to require vaccinations for all service members.
Except, around one-third of US service members have refused the jab. In July, between 60% and 70% of personnel were fully vaccinated – with the Navy being the most vaccinated and the Marines being the least, according to the Washington Post.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Monday that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will follow through on his vow to mandate the shots once the FDA approves the vaccine, and will seek presidential approval to do so no later than mid-September, or immediately upon FDA licensure, or “whichever comes first,” according to the Associated Press.
“Right now it’s being framed as a readiness issue,” said Katherine Kuzminski, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. “As we see in Afghanistan, there is certainly a need to rapidly deploy people, and they may or may not be going to places that have relatively high rates of vaccinations.”
“Just from talking to soldiers, picking their brains, some of the things I’ve heard have been ‘I don’t know the long term effects’ or ‘I just don’t know enough and it worries me,'” said Capt. Javon Starnes, stationed at Fort Bragg, NC.
“Me being a 24-year-old guy, I work out regularly, I think I’m pretty in shape,” said on “The 18th Airborne Corps Podcast,” appeaning with Starnes. “I think if I were to weight the risk, I think at this time it’s not as much of a risk, it’s not that significant to me.”
As we noted two weeks ago, according to a 2018 DoD military demographics report (p. 40), the average active-duty military member is 28.2-years old, which according to The Economist‘s estimated Covid-19 risk calculator, puts the risk of death for active-duty men at less than 0.1%, and hospitalization at 2.6%. For active-duty women, the risk of death is also less than 0.1%, and hospitalization 1.6%.
In addition to the extremely low mortality rate – combined with the fact that vaccinated individuals can still contract and transmit Covid-19, albeit at lower rates, perhaps the largely young and fit members of the military aren’t about to change their mind – except now they may lose their jobs.
According to the Post, soldiers have pointed to “past instances of forced exposure to vaccines or chemical agents, dating back to radiation tests and Agent Orange in Vietnam, as a potential explanation for the vaccine hesitancy that remains so pervasive.”
In 2004, a federal judge barred the Department of Defense from mandating an experimental anthrax vaccine after some service members who were inoculated years prior questioned whether there was a corollary to various ailments they had developed. More recently, questions have been raised among military veterans and medical professionals about health issues stemming from exposure to toxic substances at open-air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. -WaPo
“What I’ve found from speaking to soldiers is that there are some who are, in a broad sense, skeptical of the government,” said Col. Joe Buccino, a military spokesperson for the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg – and host of the 18th Airborne Corps Podcast. “And that is probably drawn from a broader skepticism within the American population, probably going back to the early 1970s.
The Post notes, as if it’s illegal, that members of the military have taken to social media to decry mandatory vaccinations. And of course, “military leaders now face the possibility social media disinformation campaigns” that may undermine their ability to force service members to get the jab.
Goldsmith notes that, already, there is considerable messaging online “encouraging active-duty troops to disobey lawful orders,” and users who identify as service members questioning whether they will be forced to resign or retire from the military should they continue to refuse the vaccines.
It remains to be seen precisely how the military will address any continued resistance once the vaccine mandate takes effort. In announcing his intent Aug. 9, Austin stopped short of establishing a deadline by which all personnel must be vaccinated and said that the leaders of each branch of service would be responsible for establishing their own plans. -WaPo
Translation; service members are condescendingly framed as too dumb not to fall prey to ‘vaccine misinformation’, and simply talking about being forced to resign or retire means one is part of ‘continued resistance’ once the vaccine mandate takes place.
According to Goldsmith, noncompliant service members are unlikely to be court-martialed.
“And while that is theoretically possible, that would be a huge drain on resources. So what I would expect is [that commanders turn to] nonjudicial punishments, duty restrictions, measures that make life inconvenient until someone relents.”