U.S. MILITARY MEMBERS SAY NO TO COVID-19 VACCINE JABS
By the thousands, US service members are refusing or putting off the COVID-19 vaccine as frustrated commanders scramble to knock down internet rumors and find the right pitch that will persuade troops to get the shot, Lolita C. Baldor reported for the Associated Press (AP).
Some Army units are seeing as few as one-third agree to the vaccine. Military leaders searching for answers believe they have identified one potential convincer: An imminent deployment.
Navy sailors on ships heading out to sea last week, for example, were choosing to take the shot at rates exceeding 80% to 90%. Air Force Maj. Gen. Jeff Taliaferro, vice director of operations for the Joint Staff, told Congress on Wednesday that “very early data” suggests that just up to two-thirds of the service members offered the vaccine have accepted.
That’s higher than the rate for the general population, which a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation put at roughly 50%. But the significant number of forces declining the vaccine is especially worrisome because troops often live, work and fight closely together in environments where social distancing and wearing masks, at times, are difficult.
The military’s resistance also comes as troops are deploying to administer shots at vaccination centers around the country and as leaders look to American forces to set an example for the nation.
“We’re still struggling with what is the messaging and how do we influence people to opt in for the vaccine,” said Brig. Gen. Edward Bailey, the surgeon for Army Forces Command. He said that in some units just 30% have agreed to take the vaccine, while others are between 50% and 70%.
Forces Command oversees major Army units, encompassing about 750,000 Army, Reserve and National Guard soldiers at 15 bases. At Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where several thousand troops are preparing for future deployments, the vaccine acceptance rate is about 60%, Bailey said. That’s “not as high as we would hope for front-line personnel,” he said.
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