Pentagon: More than half of service members vaccinated against COVID-19

Pentagon: More than half of service members vaccinated against COVID-19
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Just more than half of all service members are at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19, with the Navy the most vaccinated service and the Marine Corps the least.

About 68 percent of active-duty troops have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Terry Adirim told reporters at the Pentagon.

Combined with service members in the Reserve and National Guard, a little more than 51 percent of all military personnel are at least partially vaccinated.

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Broken down among the military services, the Navy boasts a 77 percent vaccination rate for active-duty sailors, the Army has 70 percent of its troops inoculated, the Air Force is at 61 percent and the Marine Corps at 58 percent. 

Adirim could not say why the percentages varied so widely. 

The figures are a slight improvement from last month, when 58 percent active-duty service members had at least one dose.

The Pentagon in April made all Defense personnel and their beneficiaries eligible to receive a vaccine and in May called on military leaders to take steps to ramp up COVID-19 vaccination rates among service members.

But the military is still struggling to convince thousands of its members to get the shot.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has COVID-19 vaccines under an emergency use authorization, which means the Pentagon can’t legally mandate that all service members receive them.

The Department of Defense (DOD) also doesn’t track how many of its personnel reject the vaccine, making it hard to pinpoint why troops, sailors and airmen are choosing to decline the shot.

President BidenJoe BidenBiden to meet House Dems before Europe trip: report 21 House Democrats call for removing IRS bank reporting proposal from spending bill Overnight Health Care — Presented by Altria — Vulnerable House Dems push drug pricing plan MORE has the power to grant an exemption to the FDA rule, and in late April he said he would not dismiss the possibility of requiring all service members to get the vaccine once it is fully approved. He added, however, that the decision was a “tough call” and said he was “going to leave that to the military.”

Adirim said Wednesday that officials are “particularly concerned” with the new delta COVID-19 variant potentially spreading among the military’s unvaccinated.

“We are particularly concerned with the impact of the delta variant on our unvaccinated or partially vaccinated population and its potential spread at installations that are located in parts of the country with low vaccination rates,” she said.

As of Wednesday, 930,125 service members are fully vaccinated and another 253,116 have received the first of two shots, according to the latest DOD numbers.