On Saturday, the assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, John Kirby, announced that “no Guantanamo detainees have been vaccinated," because the Pentagon had suspended the vaccination plan.
“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,” the Department of Defense press secretary tweeted.
The statement was made a day after US federal prosecutor Clayton G. Trivett Jr.'s revelation that the Pentagon would vaccinate prisoners held in the Guantanamo Bay prison.
The reported plans immediately received backlash from public figures, including members of the Republican party.
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.— John Kirby (@PentagonPresSec) January 30, 2021
'Inexcusable and un-American'
Following the Friday report by the NYT which revealed the DoD vaccination plan, some Republicans slammed the Pentagon, with GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy apparently expressing dissatisfaction with how US President Joe Biden is proceeding with "a plan to defeat the virius".
President Biden told us he would have a plan to defeat the virus on day 1. He just never told us that it would be to give the vaccine to terrorists before most Americans.— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) January 30, 2021
In similar fashion, a GOP US Representative from New York, Elise Stefanik, blasted Biden's plan as “inexcusable and un-American”, stating that "President Biden is choosing to prioritize vaccinations for convicted terrorists in Gitmo over vulnerable American seniors or veterans."
‘Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to get COVID-19 vaccine in Guantanamo’— Rep. Elise Stefanik (@RepStefanik) January 30, 2021
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. https://t.co/wx52bPYeoO
GOP Rep. Dan Bishop, representing North Carolina, suggested that it was inappropriate that "the 9/11 mastermind & Gitmo detainees skip in front of millions of Americans for the COVID", saying in an apparent reference to the recently sworn-in new US President Joe Biden's vow to unify the US, that "nothing says #unity like" the abovementioned plans.
Vaccination plan in Guantanamo
On Friday, Trivett said that an official in Pentagon had signed a memo approving the delivery of the Covid-19 vaccine for the naval base’s inmates. Among them are those who reportedly conspired in the September 11 attacks, including the well-known Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
As prosecutors reportedly mentioned, the lack of vaccinations complicates the war crimes hearings at Guantanamo Bay. However, the statistics of coronavirus cases in the prison is yet unknown. Meanwhile, vaccinations for medical staff and some military personnel at the base began on 8 January, the Fox News reported.
Amid the ongoing mass vaccination in the US, the question of when prisoners will get jabs has become acute as the facilities could not provide appropriate medical assistance. Infection rates in prisons are four times higher than in the general population, as the possibility of social distancing is nonexistent behind bars, where residential dormitories and cafeterias are typically overcrowded and poorly ventilated. According to research issued last month by The Associated Press and the Marshall Project, about 20 percent (over 275,000 people) of US prison inmates have been infected with COVID-19.
The US has the world's highest COVID-19 rates, according to Johns Hopkins University data tracking. Over 26 million coronavirus cases have been reported along with at least 438,000 deaths.