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Nate Jackson / December 17, 2021

U.S. Military Now Punishing the Unvaxxed

One year ago, Joe Biden said of the vaccine, “No, I don’t think it should be mandatory.”

Vaccines are generally a good idea for the vast majority of people, including the brand new ones for COVID. But the latter vaccines are quite different from your typical regimen for polio, measles, and the like. They were rushed through development to fight a brand new pandemic. They use novel technology to fight a novel virus. That combined with the real if oft-dismissed benefits of natural immunity — not to mention individual liberty — mean mandates for the coronavirus vaccine ought to be off the table. That, unfortunately, is not how authoritarians like Joe Biden approach things.

The Pentagon’s vaccine mandate is arguably a different animal given the chain of command and arguments about readiness and wellness, but it’s now beginning to cause trouble.

At a time when the U.S. military is already suffering from serious issues related to readiness and morale, disciplinary actions and discharges have begun for unvaccinated personnel. The Associated Press says that there are still “at least 30,000 service members [who] are not yet vaccinated,” and the 20,000 who have not yet obtained exemptions are now “at risk of being removed from service.” Each of the branches has begun discharges or started the process of doing so.

To be sure, those are still relatively small numbers. The Wall Street Journal reports: “The Army said Thursday that 98% of its 468,459 active-duty soldiers are at least partially vaccinated, with 96% fully vaccinated. In the Marine Corps, 95% of Marines were at least partially vaccinated and 94% fully. The Navy has the highest vaccination rate at 98.4% fully vaccinated. And 97% of the active-duty members of the Air Force and Space Force are fully vaccinated, the Air Force said.”

That’s a far higher percentage than the population as a whole: “85% of Americans 18 or over have had at least one shot, and 72% are fully vaccinated.”

Despite the exceedingly high voluntary participation rate, Lee Miller, a West Point graduate and combat veteran, recently argued in our pages that mandating this vaccine for otherwise healthy military personnel is a terrible idea. Miller’s beef is with the mandate — let it “remain a personal and voluntary decision.”

Pentagon chief spokesman John Kirby effectively said it’s not a personal decision, and that the “readiness concern” and goal is “getting the vaccination rate as close to 100% as possible.”

“This has absolutely nothing to do with trampling on the religious liberties of our men and women in uniform,” Kirby said earlier this month. “This is not about liberties, it’s about a military medical requirement to keep them safe, to keep their family safe, to keep their units safe.”

As for those who refuse, he said, “It is a lawful order and it has to be obeyed because it is a valid medical requirement.” According to the AP, “Members of the U.S. military are already required to get as many as 17 vaccines.” In other words, there’s precedent, and objectors aren’t finding much sympathy where they need it.

What that says to current personnel and would-be recruits is another matter.

Next up, the Biden administration appealed to the Supreme Court to reinstate its nationwide vaccination mandate for healthcare workers.

One year ago, Joe Biden said of the vaccine, “No, I don’t think it should be mandatory.” Joe Biden was right.

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