Pentagon Lacks COVID-19 Status of Thousands of Civilian Staff Amid Looming Jab Deadline
© REUTERS / Alexander DragoThe Pentagon logo is seen behind the podium in the briefing room at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., January 8, 2020.
© REUTERS / Alexander Drago
Soon after the US Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, in August, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin mandated that all service members receive a COVID-19 jab.
Just weeks away from a looming deadline to fully vaccinate its staff, the US Department of Defense (DoD) still lacks data regarding the COVID-19 jab status of hundreds of thousands of its civilian employees, reported CNN.
The Pentagon faces a 22 November deadline for civilian federal government workers to receive their Pfizer inoculations, ahead of the corresponding deadline for most active duty service members. However, while regarding the latter the Department has made significant progress, with over 90% of service members fully or partially vaccinated, it has not yet received jab data for more than half of its civilian employees.
© REUTERS / Dado RuvicA vial labelled with the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine is seen in this illustration picture taken March 19, 2021
A vial labelled with the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine is seen in this illustration picture taken March 19, 2021
© REUTERS / Dado Ruvic
With an overall civilian workforce of more than 765,000, data cited by the department shows that an estimated 319,000 DoD civilians are fully vaccinated, while another 46,477 have been partially inoculated. The numbers include individuals who received their vaccine through a DoD provider or self-reported the jab.
Meanwhile, more deaths have been registered from coronavirus among the DoD civilian workforce, employed across the US, with the largest concentration in and around Washington, DC., than in the military ranks, the data confirmed. 334 civilians died of COVID-19, while 62 service members succumbed to the disease.
Press secretary John Kirby dismissed cited concerns of this becoming a "huge issue", saying that the Pentagon was still working on how to ensure its civilian staff is fully vaccinated.
"Our civilian workers here, they take their jobs very seriously, they take their obligations to their families and their coworkers very seriously and I think we have every expectation that they too will continue to seek and pursue getting vaccinated. There are a range of administrative tools that leaders here at the department would have to make sure that our civilian workers are likewise getting the vaccine," said Kirby at a Tuesday press briefing.
Pentagon spokesman Maj. Charlie Dietz was also cited as attempting to allay concerns. According to him, the website data is “incomplete.”
“The Safer Federal Workforce Taskforce, which is implementing the President's EO requiring federal employee and contractor vaccination, will have requirements on what data DoD must collect for its federal civilian workforce, so we should know more information about the implementation soon," he said.
There are differing deadlines for receiving the approved vaccines. The last possible date for receiving the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, given in two doses 21 days apart, is 18 October. The latest possible date for a first dose of Moderna, necessitating a four-week wait, was 11 October. The last possible date to receive the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 8 November. The Us Air Force, which has fully or partially vaccinated 95.4% of active duty airmen by October, has an earlier deadline for its active duty force to be fully vaccinated by 2 November.
© AFP 2021 / JOSEPH PREZIOSOIn this file photo the Moderna logo is seen at the Moderna campus in Norwood, Massachusetts on on December 2, 2020, where the biotechnology company is mass producing its Covid-19 vaccine. - US biotech firm Moderna said on July 7, 2021 it had dosed its first participants in a human study of an mRNA vaccine that targets multiple strains of influenza. The company intends to recruit 180 adults in the United States for the Phase 1/2 portion of the trial to evaluate the safety and strength of immune response to the shot, called mRNA-1010.
In this file photo the Moderna logo is seen at the Moderna campus in Norwood, Massachusetts on on December 2, 2020, where the biotechnology company is mass producing its Covid-19 vaccine. - US biotech firm Moderna said on July 7, 2021 it had dosed its first participants in a human study of an mRNA vaccine that targets multiple strains of influenza. The company intends to recruit 180 adults in the United States for the Phase 1/2 portion of the trial to evaluate the safety and strength of immune response to the shot, called mRNA-1010.
The leader in inoculation among the armed services is the US Navy, which has a 28 November deadline. It boasts 98% of its active duty force either fully or partially vaccinated. Overall, the American military has a 96.7% vaccination rate among active duty, including fully and partially vaccinated, Press Secretary John Kirby said at the briefing.
That leaves approximately 44,700 active duty troops unvaccinated out of a total force of 1.35 million. The data shows that the military has far outstripped the general US population in jab rates, with the latter registering a 78.4% vaccination rate for those 18 and over.
Meanwhile, a top Catholic official in the US military has claimed that soldiers have the right to opt out of coronavirus vaccine mandates if it might “violate [their] conscience” for whatever reason. The Archbishop for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese for Military Services in the US, Timothy Broglio, issued a statement saying that despite the Vatican determining the moral permissibility of these vaccines despite a peripheral link to aborted fetal cells, soldiers still have the right to decline the vaccine.
“No one should be forced to receive a Covid-19 vaccine if it would violate the sanctity of his or her conscience,” stated Broglio.
In August, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin required that all service members receive the COVID-19 vaccines after the US Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to the jab developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. Some branches, however, have offered exemptions. The Army, for example, allowed opt-outs for “legitimate medical, religious or administrative reason[s]”.