New reports are coming in stating that hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops remain unvaccinated or are only partially vaccinated against COVID-19 as the Pentagon’s first compliance deadline for the vaccine mandate is coming up.
The Connecticut Post reported that while 90 percent of the active-duty Navy is fully vaccinated, just 72 percent of the Marine Corps is, despite the fact that both of these military branches share a November 28 deadline for the vaccine. The Marines declined to comment on why their vaccine rates are lagging.
The military vaccine mandate isn’t about health, it’s about purging the ranks pic.twitter.com/llOgyFSwgJ
— ELIJAH (@ElijahSchaffer) September 21, 2021
“Marines who refuse the vaccine today,” a spokesperson said, “may choose to be vaccinated tomorrow.”
As for the Air Force, over 60,000 personnel have just three weeks to meet the Defense Department’s most ambitious deadline.
Military officials have blamed this variance in vaccination rates on staggered deadlines for each of the services set for personnel to comply with the vaccine mandate. They have also said that they are optimistic that vaccination rates will rise as the deadlines get closer.
Critics, however, have said that the large gaps between vaccination deadlines jeopardize how ready the military can be in a moment of crisis. They specifically cited the fact that large numbers of the reserves and National Guard have refused to get vaccinated. Over the past two years, they’ve been called upon in a wide variety of emergencies.
“The military is being compromised at a rapid rate.” … Americans better not get too comfortable. … What is the effect of the top pilots – who refused the “vaccine” – quitting … SO MUCH IN THESE 2 MINUTES!!! pic.twitter.com/eyZToa6hca
— Lenny Dykstra (@LennyDykstra) September 10, 2021
“The Army’s policy is incentivizing inaction until the latest possible date,” said Katherine L. Kuzminski, a military policy expert at the Washington think tank Center for a New American Security. “The way we’ve seen the virus evolve tells us looking out to June 30 may need to be reconsidered.”
Lt. Col. Terence M. Kelley, an Army spokesman, explained that around half of Army reservists don’t live near military health clinics that administer the vaccine.
“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, going on to add that the June deadlines “allow reserve component units necessary time to update records and process exemption requests.”
Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, described the Army’s deadline for its reserve units as “jarring,” adding that it could impact the service’s ability to mobilize troops between now and next summer quickly.
“I think the Army needs to take this seriously and their effort to explain away the problem” is irresponsible, he said. “You’re allowing a lot of room for people not to be deployable.”