Despite the evidence and consequences, millions of Americans continue to reject safe, effective, and free COVID-19 vaccines, even in the military. The Washington Post reported over the weekend, for example, that Pentagon leaders are trying to "devise an effective strategy for countering pervasive doubt about the pandemic's seriousness and widespread misinformation about the shots designed to bring it under control."
Pentagon officials said Monday they will require all military service members to receive a Covid-19 vaccine. The move, announced by Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, comes after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Aug. 9 that he would require all service members to be vaccinated starting in mid-September with or without full FDA approval. Mr. Kirby said instructions and timelines will be distributed to Pentagon personnel soon.
Austin reportedly delayed implementation of the policy until after the FDA's review was complete.
Circling back to our earlier coverage, it was President Biden who directed Austin to examine the matter, and not surprisingly the president recently commended the new mandate. "I am proud that our military women and men will continue to help lead the charge in the fight against this pandemic, as they so often do, by setting the example of keeping their fellow Americans safe," Biden said.
It's an important development for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the importance of protecting the men and women in uniform from a dangerous virus. It's also likely to help improve overall vaccination rates, since the Pentagon is the nation's largest employer.
In a message to servicemembers, Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff recently noted that the "health and readiness of our force is critical to America's defense." The Army general added, "Mandating vaccines in the military is not new."
That's both true and an underappreciated detail. Those in uniform are currently required to be protected against ailments such as diphtheria and measles. The vaccines are not optional; they're simply part of military service.
What's more, as Rachel noted on the show a few weeks ago, depending on where service members may be deployed, troops are required to receive up to 17 different vaccinations. This has been the Pentagon's policy for quite a while, and it's never been especially notable in the American mainstream.
Indeed, as we've discussed, it's a tradition with deep roots: During the Revolutionary War, smallpox took such a brutal toll on the American military that George Washington believed he had no choice but to "inoculate all the troops." The general did exactly that in 1777, and as historian Craig Bruce Smith explained in a piece for Time magazine, Washington's decision helped save the lives of countless patriots and "undoubtedly helped ensure the survival of the United States."
Centuries later, however, there's nevertheless political pushback. Indeed, it was just last month when Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) introduced legislation to prohibit the Defense Department from requiring COVID-19 vaccines for men and women in uniform. It wasn't long before the bill picked up 30 Republican co-sponsors, including notorious members such as Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), and House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.).
Fortunately, their bill was ignored, and the troops will be protected.