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11 Oct, 2021 15:00

Unvaccinated US troops still number in ‘hundreds of thousands’ despite looming deadlines – reports

Unvaccinated US troops still number in ‘hundreds of thousands’ despite looming deadlines – reports

Hundreds of thousands of US military service members remain unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated against Covid-19 despite looming mandate deadlines, as rates vary significantly across individual services.

In August, members of the US military services were informed that immunization against Covid-19 would be required as part of new directives from President Joe Biden. According to data analyzed in a Washington Post report, however, inoculation rates among America’s more than two million soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are lagging in many areas.

Deadlines for individual services vary, but many are facing a situation where only weeks remain to get thousands of personnel to agree to being jabbed. The Marine Corps and Navy are both facing November 28 deadlines, but the former has a 72% vaccination rate, while the latter has a much higher 90% rate. The Air Force, on the other hand, has just three weeks to get approximately 60,000 personnel fully jabbed. 

The rate in the active-duty Army stands at 81%, though it’s the Army Reserve and National Guard that have truly lagged. Those branches, which number over 500,000 people, have vaccination rates of approximately 40%. Those on active-duty are facing a December 15 deadline, but Guard and Reserve members do not have to comply until June 30.

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While Guard and Reserve troops typically serve in part-time capacities, many units across the country were mobilized this year and last to help deal with California wildfires and boost security in Washington, DC after the Capitol riot, among other things. Since most in these branches also hold full-time civilian jobs, it ups their exposure to the virus. More military service personnel died of Covid-19 in September of this year than all of last year, and nearly half of them were Guard and Reserve soldiers, according to the report. 

Some have questioned the military’s long deadlines, especially for the Guard and Reserve, and whether they will impact readiness. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Arizona) called the June deadline “jarring” and said it would leave room for thousands of troops to “not be deployable.”

Army spokesman Lt. Col. Terence M. Kelley defended the June deadline in the report, saying coronavirus restrictions have made it much more difficult to process soldiers and counsel the many who have questions about the vaccine. About half of reservists don’t live near a military health clinic offering the vaccine too, according to Kelley. 

Military officials have previously stated that no soldier will be allowed to be on federal orders and to leave their home station without being vaccinated first. 

It remains to be seen how many soldiers will actually defy the vaccine mandate – or what would happen to them if they do – but other industries are already seeing the impact, with hospitals and airlines reportedly facing staffing issues stemming from employees unhappy with vaccine mandates. 

Some mandate critics have celebrated the thousands of soldiers who have not yet been inoculated and encouraged them to continue refusing the shots.

“No one anywhere should comply with a totalitarian regime,” conservative commentator Candace Owens tweeted on Monday in reaction to the news, adding a “#DoNotComply” hashtag, with numerous others following suit. 

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