“Hundreds of thousands of U.S. service members remain unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated against the coronavirus as the Pentagon’s first compliance deadlines near.”
So commences an article in the Washington Post published this Sunday, trumpeting its alarm at the possible consequences for national security if the military is forced to shed huge numbers of vaccine hold-outs. Describing a “spike in deaths” in recent months, the article specifies that, “In September, more military personnel died of coronavirus infections than in all of 2020.”
A brief glance at the figures as provided by the Department of Defense (graph included in the article) shows this is a true statement. Buried elsewhere in the article, however, is a statistic that places matters in perspective: Of the around two million people currently serving in the U.S. military or the reserves, the number of those who have died “due to COVID-19” is precisely 62.
Yes, “deaths attributed to COVID-19 have soared” in recent months, correlating to the period during which vaccination rates climbed significantly in the military, as deadlines for full vaccine compliance loomed. “None of those who died were fully vaccinated,” according to Pentagon spokesman Major Charlie Dietz, providing a hint, perhaps, to something that has been noted multiple times in multiple sources — the fact that, until several weeks have passed following the second of the two-shot regime, the vaccine recipient is not considered “fully vaccinated.”
How many of those 62 deaths occurred in the window of time between the second vaccine dose and the start-date for “vaccinated” status? We may never know.
And just how problematic is COVID in the armed forces? Around 250,000 service members have tested positive for the virus since the epidemic’s outbreak, and “over 2,000 have been hospitalized,” according to the Washington Times’ reckoning.
In order to explain the disruption caused by a COVID outbreak, even if the number of fatalities is low, Katherine L. Kuzminski, a military policy expert cited by the Washington Times, related an incident that occurred last year when over a thousand crew members of the USS Theodore Roosevelt tested positive for the virus, causing the ship to be “sidelined” for two months. Ultimately, just one sailor died.
However, if the US authorities do not succeed in subduing the huge numbers of forces members into compliance, the ensuing disruption will be far greater, as is already being noted by legislators. “The Army needs to take this seriously, and their effort to explain away the problem is irresponsible,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “You’re allowing a lot of room for people not to be deployable.”
“Question for the [Secretary of Defense],” echoed Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.), a former Navy SEAL. “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.”
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