A number of new policies in the United States Army are purportedly aimed at service members who decline Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines. These policies, including restriction of movement and limited access to facilities, are in place in at least two military reservations. While the U.S. Army cannot mandate vaccinations, the new rules appear to be a not-so-subtle approach to coerce military personnel into getting immunized against COVID-19.
A memorandum by Maj. Gen. Brian J. Mennes released on March 17 outlined a number of privileges available to vaccinated personnel. Mennes commands the Fort Drum military reservation, located in New York state.
Mennes’s memorandum stated that fully vaccinated military personnel are not required to quarantine after traveling and returning to their post. On the other hand, unvaccinated service members must quarantine for 10 days. Furthermore, “family members must be able to quarantine with the service member” – which meant that their partners cannot go to work and their children cannot go to school.
The document also said that vaccinated personnel can conduct outdoor physical training without masks, and may be allowed to train indoors without face coverings. However, the document said indoor physical training will only be allowed “without unvaccinated personnel present.”
The memorandum also mandates personnel – vaccinated or not – to wear face masks at all instances. “Unless otherwise directed, a face covering is part of the duty uniform,” it said. But the document clarified that face masks may be removed if all people in a room have received the COVID-19 vaccine.
Furthermore, unvaccinated service members will have to undergo additional paperwork to secure approval for leaves. Personnel who have not yet received the COVID-19 jabs will need to have their leave requests approved by an O-5 officer such as a lieutenant colonel or battalion commander, alongside an exception to policy (ETP) document. On the other hand, vaccinated personnel only require the approval of a lower-ranking O-3 officer such as a captain or company commander.
New regulations seem like a response to vaccine hesitancy among the ranks
Meanwhile, Fort Bragg in North Carolina implemented a similar measure designed to pressure military personnel into getting the COVID-19 jab. The commander of the base’s 82nd Airborne Division mandated that service members need a vaccination card before entering a military dining facility. The new regulation will impact a huge percentage of lower-ranked enlisted soldiers who do not have access to kitchens in the barracks. Most lower-income personnel depend on the dining facilities for their daily meals while on duty or in training rotations.
The new mandates put in place at Fort Drum and Fort Bragg appear to target personnel who have doubts regarding the Wuhan coronavirus vaccines. A significant number of military personnel refused to get the COVID-19 vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use only. Back in February, the Department of Defense (DoD) said almost 75 percent of personnel declined COVID-19 vaccinations. During a Feb. 17 hearing, Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Director of Operations Maj. Gen. Jeff Taliaferro explained that the reason why military personnel are not availing of the jab is because it is not compulsory. He added that the Pentagon received about 916,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses.
Other Pentagon officials also shared with the House Committee on Armed Services the immunization drive ongoing in the armed forces. According to Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Robert Salesses, 359,000 troops have received their first dose and 147,000 have completed both doses. Other Pentagon officials who attended the meeting estimated that vaccination of military personnel, civilian staff and the contractor workforce will finish by late July or early August 2021.
Ultimately, military leaders remarked that getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is “the right thing to do” and exhorted personnel to get the jabs. “We believe that, of course, getting the vaccine is the right thing to do. It’s clearly safe for service members, and we need to continue to educate our force and help them understand the benefits,” Taliaferro said. (Related: Pentagon reports ALMOST 75 PERCENT of troops turned down Wuhan coronavirus vaccine.)
Visit Pandemic.news to read more articles about COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in the armed forces.
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