A full third of all US military personnel are refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine, and in some units, the number is over 50% who are unwilling to take the jab.
The figure is alarming commanders as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage across the United States.
Personnel who refuse the vaccine will face no repercussions due to a federal law that ‘prohibits the mandatory application of medicines within the military that are not fully licensed by the US Food and Drug Administration’, The Nation reports.
At present, the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines have only been granted ’emergency use authorizations’ by the FDA.
But regulators and officials say the vaccines are safe and, in the case of the Moderna and Pfizer shots, at least 94% effective.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was 66% effective in trials but is a single shot rather than two.
While it could take years for the shots to become fully licensed by the federal agency, the military may make the vaccine mandatory once that happens.
‘Obviously, we’re thinking about what happens when they become FDA-approved,’ Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby stated on Monday.
‘It would change the character of the decision-making process, about whether they could be mandatory or voluntary. But I don’t want to get ahead of that process right now.’
US Military Personnel Reluctant To Take COVID-19 Vaccine Due To America’s History
Some personnel are reluctant to receive the vaccine due to backlash from the military’s rushed rollout of an anthrax vaccine back in the 1990s.
In 1997, the government made it mandatory for personnel to receive the jab, but ‘huge numbers of service members complained of debilitating side effects and a lengthy legal battle ensued.
In 2004, courts determined that the government had violated federal law by mandating the vaccine when it was revealed that the FDA hadn’t ‘adequately studied’ how effective it was against the inhalation anthrax.
Mandatory anthrax vaccinations resumed three years later following ‘further testing and study’.
Some young enlistees told The New York Times that that history has made them less inclined to receive the shot – even though it occurred almost a generation ago.
‘I would prefer not to be the one testing this vaccine,’ one 24-year-old service woman told the publication.
At the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, as little as 30 percent of personnel are accepting the vaccine.
Brigadier General David Doyle told The Associated Press that a majority of troops are turning down the shot because they believe it has been rushed.
‘They tell me they don’t have high confidence in the vaccine because they believe it was done too quickly,’ he said. Other military members are refusing the jab because of misinformation and conspiracy theories.
According to The Associated Press, one Marine last month refused to receive the vaccine because he believed it implanted a ‘tracking device’.
There is no merit to that theory. Military officials are hoping to speed up the authorization process in order to make it compulsory.
‘I can tell you we’re probably going to make it mandatory as soon as we can, just like we do with the flu vaccine,’ Vice Admiral Andrew Lewis, commander of the Navy’s 2nd Fleet, told the Associated Press.
There are about 1.3 million active-duty troops, according to The Washington Post.
As of mid-February, just 150,000 had received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.