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Pentagon pauses plan to offer coronavirus vaccine to Guantánamo Bay prisoners

Pentagon pauses plan to offer coronavirus vaccine to Guantánamo Bay prisoners
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The Pentagon announced Saturday that it is pausing a plan to offer coronavirus vaccines to prisoners at Guantanamo Bay after facing a wave of pushback.

“No Guantanamo detainees have been vaccinated. We’re pausing the plan to move forward, as we review force protection protocols. We remain committed to our obligations to keep our troops safe,” tweeted Pentagon spokesman John Kirby

The reversal comes just days after the Defense Department said it would offer coronavirus vaccines to detainees at Guantánamo Bay, the notorious prison in Cuba, with the rollout possibly coming as soon as next week. The plan was to offer the 40 detainees at the base the first of two doses of the available vaccines “on a voluntary basis.” 

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It is unknown how many coronavirus cases have occurred on the military base, but the pandemic has presented an obstacle to holding military legal proceedings, including in the case against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the man who is accused of being one of the masterminds behind the attacks on U.S. soil on Sept. 11, 2001. 

The plan had been met with fierce pushback, particularly by Republican lawmakers, before it was paused, especially in light of vaccine shortages across the country.

"It is inexcusable and un-American that President Biden is choosing to prioritize vaccinations for convicted terrorists in Gitmo over vulnerable American seniors or veterans," Rep. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikHouse passes bill to combat gender pay gap Business groups oppose Paycheck Fairness Act, citing concerns it could threaten bonuses and negotiating Ambitious House lawmakers look for promotions MORE (R-N.Y.) said prior to Kirby's Saturday announcement. 

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"Nothing says #unity like letting the 9/11 mastermind & Gitmo detainees skip in front of millions of Americans for the COVID #vaccine," added Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), citing Biden’s repeated calls for unity.