Under federal law, however, the option to refuse “may only be waived by the President” if it is determined that the refusal “is not in the interest of national security”. The White House did not respond to requests for comment.
Troop reluctance complicates relations between military installations and the communities around them, and can hamper overseas deployments. For a recent mission to Europe from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for example, several unvaccinated servicemen had to be replaced with those who had been vaccinated due to quarantine rules in the countries to which they were deployed. Military barracks are also known risks of transmitting respiratory infections, said Dr Tom Frieden, former director of the CDC.
Among the 21 people with the coronavirus in hospitals managed by the Ministry of Defense, none have been vaccinated, officials said this week.
“The benefits of vaccination are remarkably clear,” said Lt. Gen. Ronald J. Place, director of the Defense Health Agency.
A lack of acceptance of vaccines among hospital workers caring for veterans could be of more concern; Due to their middle age and service-related injuries and illnesses, veterans may be more vulnerable to infections. Nearly 12,500 veterans have died of complications from the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.
Of the approximately 380,000 people who work for the Department of Veterans Affairs, 298,186 are fully vaccinated, about 78%, more than the national average of around 46%, but well below what Mr McDonough said he wanted for those who provide health care.
About 20,300 VA employees have contracted the coronavirus since March 2020, and 190 in the last month, after vaccines were widely available in the United States. While some facilities – like a VA center in New Orleans, once the epicenter of the virus – vaccinated 85% of workers, that rate was closer to 59% at others, such as a center in St. Cloud, Minn.