An Air Force sergeant gets a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccination in a December file photo at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea. Deadlines are approaching for all service personnel to receive required, but many have not received them. (United States Forces Korea via Getty Images)
By Dillon Burroughs October 11, 2021 at 7:02am
Hundreds of thousands of U.S. military members are not yet fully vaccinated for COVID-19 as the different branch’s deadlines for vaccination near.
According to a report Monday in The Washington Post, many of the nation’s 2.1 million military personnel have not yet received a COVID-19 vaccination, though the vaccine deadline of Nov. 28 for active Navy and Marine personnel is quickly approaching.
According to the report, “90 percent of the active-duty Navy is fully vaccinated, whereas just 72 percent of the Marine Corps is, the data shows, even though both services share a Nov. 28 deadline.”
“In the Air Force, more than 60,000 personnel have just three weeks to meet the Defense Department’s most ambitious deadline,” it added. The Air Force vaccination deadline is Nov. 2, according to the Post.
The active-duty Army deadline is Dec. 15
Some lawmakers are concerned that the nation could experience a mass exit of soldiers due to the vaccine mandates.
“Question for the SECDEF: are you really willing to allow a huge exodus of experienced service members just because they won’t take the vaccine?” Texas Republican Rep. and former Navy SEAL Dan Crenshaw wrote in a Twitter post last month.
“Honestly, Americans deserve to know how you plan on dealing with this blow to force readiness – it’s already causing serious problems,” he added.
Question for the SECDEF: are you really willing to allow a huge exodus of experienced service members just because they won’t take the vaccine?
Honestly, Americans deserve to know how you plan on dealing with this blow to force readiness – it’s already causing serious problems.
— Rep. Dan Crenshaw (@RepDanCrenshaw) September 21, 2021
Crenshaw has said he is not opposed to the vaccine, but he is opposed to forcing anyone to be vaccinated.
“I think we’re all sick of the vaccine controversy here. Our outlook on this should be very simple. Look, I think the vaccine is safe and effective. I also don’t think you can be forced to take it. We should just really have that worldview,” Crenshaw said, according to Fox Business.
“And I’m really sick of the Democrats especially trying to politicize this and gaslight the American people and say, ‘look at these Republicans bad-mouthing the vaccine.’ I’ve never badmouthed the vaccine at all, actually. But you know who has?” the Texas representative continued, before listing Vice President Kamala Harris and others who attacked the vaccine during its development when former President Donald Trump was in office.
A military policy expert at the Center for a New American Security, Katherine L. Kuzminski, said, “the Army’s policy is incentivizing inaction until the latest possible date,” criticizing rules that require Reserve and National Guard personnel not to be fully vaccinated for another eight months, the Post reported.
Should military members be forced to receive a COVID-19 vaccination?
Both the Guard and the Reserve have a deadline of June 30.
“The way we’ve seen the virus evolve tells us looking out to June 30 may need to be reconsidered,” Kuzminski told the Post.
Combined, the Army Guard and Reserve include approximately 522,000 soldiers.
Lt. Col. Terence M. Kelley, an Army spokesman, said the Guard and Reserve deadlines reflect the reality of immunizing members of the far-flung components.
“We expect all unvaccinated soldiers to receive the vaccine as soon as possible. Individual soldiers are required to receive the vaccine when available,” Kelley said, according to the Post.
The deadlines, he continued, “allow reserve component units necessary time to update records and process exemption requests.”
Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona said the Guard and Reserve policy could prove to be a problem.
“You’re allowing a lot of room for people not to be deployable,” he said.