The annual defense bill is set to address some important military issues, including pay increases and an analysis of the Armed Forces’ suicide rate. There is also work to rescind the COVID-19 vaccine requirement for service members – a pretty hot topic.
When the mandate was first put in place, there was a mix of strong opinions on the subject. And though it was eventually accepted by most – grudgingly, by many – those strong opinions haven’t changed. In fact, they might be stronger than ever before now that the effects of such a decision have been seen.
Some people, including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, believe that making the COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for service members is no different than the many other vaccinations they are given. And as the vaccine kept troops healthy, there should be no reason for a change.
Others, such as Rep. Mike Rogers, believe that since the President said the pandemic is over, there should be no reason the vaccine is still mandatory. He feels, along with many others, as though the COVID-19 vaccine mandate hurt recruitment and retention in the armed forces. By rescinding it, the number of enlisted personnel will increase or at least allow the defense community to focus on other obstacles.
Of course, there are parties that feel the vaccine mandate was just a drop in the bucket that impacted enlistment. During the pandemic, recruiters were not able to go to schools and other events as they normally do to encourage young people to enlist.
Additionally, there are many high school teenagers and young adults that simply cannot meet the military’s requirements. This is typically due to their physical health, the presence of tattoos, criminal records, and more.
While the inability to recruit and a lack of suitable recruits might play a role in the challenges that the U.S. military faces, there are some factors pertaining to the vaccine that cannot be ignored. For example, over 8,000 service members got discharged from their respective branches because they refused the vaccine. And over 15,000 service men and women have asked for exemption due to their religion or other factors.
With so many active duty personnel either being discharged or asking for permission not to have to take the vaccine, it’s not a stretch that a large number of prospective recruits would decide not to join for the same reason. It’s numbers like these that have many representatives asking that the mandate be rescinded and eagerly awaiting Congress’s response.