Thousands of members of America’s armed forces have not yet complied with Pentagon directives to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
As vaccination deadlines near, Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s words from last month take on new significance.
“Question for the SECDEF: are you really willing to allow a huge exodus of experienced service members just because they won’t take the vaccine?” the former Navy SEAL tweeted last month, using an acronym for secretary of defense.
“Honestly, Americans deserve to know how you plan on dealing with this blow to force readiness – it’s already causing serious problems,” Crenshaw said.
Question for the SECDEF: are you really willing to allow a huge exodus of experienced service members just because they won’t take the vaccine?
Honestly, Americans deserve to know how you plan on dealing with this blow to force readiness – it’s already causing serious problems.
— Rep. Dan Crenshaw (@RepDanCrenshaw) September 21, 2021
Crenshaw has said he is not opposed to the vaccine, but he is opposed to forcing anyone to be vaccinated.
“I think we’re all sick of the vaccine controversy here. Our outlook on this should be very simple. Look, I think the vaccine is safe and effective. I also don’t think you can be forced to take it. We should just really have that worldview,” Crenshaw said, according to Fox Business.
“And I’m really sick of the Democrats especially trying to politicize this and gaslight the American people and say, look at these Republicans bad-mouthing the vaccine. I’ve never badmouthed the vaccine at all, actually. But you know who has?” the Texas representative continued, before listing Vice President Kamala Harris and others who attacked the vaccine during its development when former President Donald Trump was in office.
Is the military being used as a political tool?
The Navy is posting a 90 percent rate of fully vaccinated service members. The Navy said that 98 percent of its active-duty sailors have received at least one shot of a vaccine.
The Marine Corps, however, has a vaccination rate of 72 percent. The Post reported that both branches have a deadline of Nov. 28.
The Air Force still has about 60,000 people that need to comply with three weeks left before its deadline.
A military policy expert at the Center for a New American Security, Katherine L. Kuzminski, said, “the Army’s policy is incentivizing inaction until the latest possible date,” criticizing rules that require Reserve and National Guard personnel not to be fully vaccinated for another eight months, the Post reported.
“The way we’ve seen the virus evolve tells us looking out to June 30 may need to be reconsidered,” Kuzminski said.
Combined, the Army Guard and Reserve comprise approximately 522,000 soldiers.
Lt. Col. Terence M. Kelley, an Army spokesman, said the Guard and Reserve deadlines reflect the reality of immunizing members of the far-flung components.
“We expect all unvaccinated soldiers to receive the vaccine as soon as possible. Individual soldiers are required to receive the vaccine when available,” Kelley said.
The deadlines, he continued, “allow reserve component units necessary time to update records and process exemption requests.”
Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona said the Guard and Reserve policy could prove to be a problem.
“You’re allowing a lot of room for people not to be deployable,” he said.