- Among U.S. military forces, the rate of refusal for the experimental COVID-19 vaccines is reportedly at about 33 percent but may be higher.
- A new report shows that the number of Marines declining COVID-19 vaccinations may be closer to 40 percent.
- To date, the military cannot mandate COVID-19 vaccinations because the FDA only has granted Emergency Use Authorization for the vaccines to be distributed, although a segment of Congress is urging the president to override informed consent to make it mandatory for military personnel despite the vaccines’ experimental status.
The Pentagon has estimated a 33 percent “opt-out” rate for COVID-19 vaccination for members of the U.S. Armed Forces, but the actual numbers may be much higher according to several reports.1 Within the Marine Corps, the first branch of the U.S. military to provide specific numbers service-wide, close to 40 percent have declined to be vaccinated.2
As of Apr. 8, 2021, about 123,500 active duty, reserve and Individual Mobilization Augmentee Marines have been offered the vaccine. Of those, 75,500 (61.1 percent) have been either fully or partially vaccinated and 48,000 (38.9 percent) have chosen not to accept vaccination. Another 102,000 Marines have not yet been offered a vaccine.
The number of Marines declining vaccination at Marine Corps base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina is even higher, with 15,100 (57 percent) refusing out of 26,400 Marines offered a COVID-19 vaccination. There are another 11,500 active-duty Marines at Camp Lejeune who have not yet been offered a vaccine.3
Putting those numbers in line with the U.S. population as a whole, a poll out of Monmouth University indicates that approximately 25 percent of Americans overall will choose not to accept the experimental vaccines.4
Vaccine Hesitancy Includes Concerns About Long-Term Safety
Several reasons have been suggested to explain why so many military men and women are refusing vaccination. The most commonly reported reason is the rapidity of vaccine development, and related concerns over potential long-term effects. Speaking for Headquarters Marine Corps, Capt. Andrew Wood said:
There are several reasons someone may have declined the vaccine… For example, an individual may have deferred until later to allow others to get the vaccine, they may have gotten the vaccine on their own and not through military channels, they could be unavailable for a second dose in the prescribed time period for the vaccines that require two doses, they could expect the vaccine to become mandatory and are waiting until then, or they may be allergic to one of the compounds in the vaccine.5
Marine Corps spokesperson Col. Kelly Frushour said, “The key to addressing the pandemic is building vaccine confidence.”6
The vaccines are still considered experimental and have only been approved under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) granted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Therefore, the Department of Defense (DOD) is not allowed to require military personnel to receive experimental COVID-19 vaccines as they can other types of vaccines that have been officially licensed by the FDA.7
Despite the experimental status of the currently available vaccines, it has been reported that a letter written by seven Democratic members of Congress has been sent to President Biden asking that he issue a “waiver of informed consent” to permit the DoD to mandate that all U.S. military service personnel receive experimental COVID-19 vaccines.8
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Click here to view References:
1 Liebermann O, Kaufman E. US Military Says A Third Of Troops Opt Out Of Being Vaccinated, But The Numbers Suggest It’s More. CNN Mar. 19, 2021.
2 DLiebermann O, Kaufman E, Cole D. Nearly 40% Of Marines Have Declined Covid-19 Vaccine. CNN Apr. 10, 2021.
4 Iran Press TV. 40 Percent of US Marines Refuse Covid-19 Vaccine. Global Security Apr. 10, 2021.
5 Athey P. Nearly 40 Percent Of Marines Have Turned Down COVID-19 Vaccine From The Corps. Marine Times Apr. 14, 2021.
6 Papenfuss M. Nearly 40% Of Marines Have Reportedly Declined COVID-19 Vaccinations. HuffPost Apr. 12, 2021.
7 Liebermann O, Kaufman E, Cole D. Nearly 40% Of Marines Have Declined Covid-19 Vaccine. CNN Apr. 10, 2021.
8 Elbeshbishi S. Nearly 40% Of Marines Decline COVID-19 Vaccine, Prompting Some Democrats To Urge Biden To Set Mandate For Military. USA Today Apr. 10, 2021.