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Vaccinations in the Military Are Way of Life — Until Now?

Where is the leadership to ensure readiness when soldiers pick the vaccines they like?

While the Biden administration is ferreting out “white supremacists” and forcing identity politics on the U.S. military, a new “follow-your-bliss” standard for force readiness is emerging, at least it seems in the Marine Corps. Liberty Nation reported on the Department of Defense’s willingness to adopt identity politics as a guiding dictum. However, leaving it up to the military member to decide whether or not to be vaccinated for what is a highly infectious and debilitating form of the flu is something new. Remember that the coronavirus took the USS Theodore Roosevelt carrier battle group out of action almost a year ago.

In a New York Post article, writer Crystal Bell reported that while “75,000 Marines have received shots,” about 48,000 have said, “Thanks, but no thanks” — nearly 40%. The vaccines have not been available to 102,000 other Marines yet. In a related report, the New York Post wrote, “Roughly one-third of U.S. military members have declined to get vaccinated for COVID-19, a Pentagon official said.”

Fast forward to more recent news. According to Military Times, “The Defense Department expects to hit three million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the next several weeks, the head of the Defense Health Agency told reporters.” At the same time, the media are telling us that 40% of Marines are refusing the COVID vaccine, and approximately one-third of all military members are turning down the vaccine. Does this pass the “smell test” for credibility?

The refusal of military members to get their shots is even more unusual when considering that The Balance Careers, a website offering tips for job seekers in its military-specific advice section, explained vaccinations “are a way of life in the U.S. Military. All recruits (both officer and enlisted) are vaccinated against various diseases during enlisted basic training or during officer accession training.”

The Balance Careers column went on:

“While many vaccinations are given during basic training, other vaccinations and/or ‘booster shots’ are given at various times while in the service, and some are given only to certain designated personnel or for assignment/deployment to various locations around the world.”

We also learn that the Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps receive a Yellow Fever vaccine as part of the series of vaccinations on entering military service. Furthermore, some vaccines are required for Alert Forces, which are those soldiers, sailors, and airmen designated to maintain readiness for immediate deployment. When needed to deploy, mobility forces are required to have their shot records up to date before deploying. Additionally, vaccinations are required often by the “host nation” where the military member will deploy.  A major Washington, D.C., newspaper reported that nations are requiring quarantine for as much as 14 days, unless vaccinated for the coronavirus disease.

[memberzone align=”left”] Health.mil, “the Official website of the Military Health System,” said military members deploying to Unified Commanders’ areas of responsibility will have a series of vaccinations before arriving in theater. For example, the U.S. Northern Command, whose area of operations includes the continental United States, requires chickenpox, Hepatitis A, and polio vaccinations. Having a current set of vaccinations is a condition for deploying. It’s not optional.

This raises the central question about the state of readiness of our forces when 40% (as in the case of the Marines) choose not to comply with vaccinations and one-third of all U.S. military forces do not meet minimum medical readiness standards.

There is no debate over the effectiveness or danger of coronavirus vaccines in the Pentagon; having vaccinated more than three million testifies to the Defense Department’s endorsement of the available coronavirus vaccines. At issue is establishing standards for readiness and the leadership to ensure the standards are met. Stars and Stripes, a major source of news for deployed U.S. forces around the world, told its readership,

“Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has a message for the roughly one in three service members who are declining vaccination against the coronavirus. ‘I hope that you’ll consider accepting it when it’s offered to you,’ he said. ‘You know, I’ve taken it myself,’ he said. ‘After talking with my doctor, I believed it was the right thing to do, not only for my health but also for my ability to do the job and to contribute to our readiness.'”

Austin’s cajoling statement might inspire the employees of Boeing or Hewlett Packard or the local 7-Eleven, but it’s not a good approach for the military members he has authority to send into harm’s way. He should have told the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces that he took the vaccine as their leader because he believes it is safe, and he has mandated that every soldier, seaman, and airman will get the vaccine as a condition of force readiness. Readiness is not optional, and neither is leadership.

The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.


Read more from Dave Patterson.

Read More From Dave Patterson

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