A third of US Military Personnel Decline Corona Vaccines
A high-ranking military official on Wednesday said that a third of service members have declined to receive the coronavirus vaccine.
During a House hearing on the Armed Forces’ response to COVID-19, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, asked Maj. Gen Jeff Taliaferro, the vice director for operations, what percentage of service members have declined to receive the vaccine.
“I think our initial look — and this is of course very early data — is acceptance rates are somewhere in the two-thirds territory, and of course it varies by different groups,” Taliaferro said.
No system in place: Pentagon officials had previously insisted that it did not know how many service members had refused to get the vaccine as it doesn’t have a system in place to track that information because the program is voluntary.
“It’s not the kind of thing that we’re centrally tracking here, that [the office of the secretary of Defense] has a database that we can just go pull from. That’s not the case right now,” top Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters earlier this month.
DoD has also made it a policy to not report branch affiliations of those who have received the vaccine, Military Times reported in early February.
Pushing back: Kirby later on Wednesday pushed back on claims that officials are hiding information, saying again that the Defense Department doesn’t have a centralized system in place to track how many service members have declined the vaccine.
He said officials at the House hearing were citing broad data on vaccine acceptance rates that “mirror” trends in American society, and that the officials went on to say that it is not data that they are specifically following.
Not hiding: He also insisted that the Pentagon is not making any attempt to hide information on the number of troops who are deciding not to get vaccinated.
“Nobody is hiding data,” Kirby said. “There’d be no reason for us to hide data when we can certainly tell you how exactly many people are getting the vaccines.”
Still deployable: Rogers also asked if the service members who were not vaccinated were deployable.
Taliaferro stated non-immunized service members were deployable, saying the “services and commands” that have been set up over the past year have allowed the Armed Forces to operate in a “COVID environment.”
There has been a “strong decline” in levels of coronavirus infections in England since January, say scientists tracking the epidemic.
Imperial College London’s React study found infections have dropped by two-thirds across England since lockdown began, with an 80% fall in London.
But virus levels are still high, with one in 200 testing positive between 4 and 13 February.
This is similar to levels seen in late September 2020.
Although these are interim findings, based on more than 85,000 swab tests from randomly selected people, they suggest social distancing and restrictions are having an impact.
Prof Paul Elliott, director of the programme at Imperial, said the drop in infection rates was “really encouraging”.
It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepares to receive new data on the effect of vaccines on the spread of coronavirus, ahead of Monday’s publication of a roadmap for easing the lockdown in England.
Speaking on Wednesday he said it was “absolutely right” to take a “data not dates” approach to leaving lockdown, and stressed England would ease measures “cautiously”.
A further 12,718 coronavirus cases were reported across the UK on Wednesday – down 24% on the seven-day average – alongside another 738 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
According to the Imperial College London team, during early-to-mid-February 0.51% of people in the study tested positive in England, down from 1.57% in early January. In London, positive tests fell from 2.83% to 0.54% over six weeks.
The study’s author Prof Steven Riley described the fall in cases in London as “dramatic” and said there had been “a strong downward trend since January – better than many hoped for”, which is equivalent to a halving of infections every 15 days.
The researchers estimated the R number – the average number of people one infected person will pass the virus on to – was around 0.72.
But more than 20,000 Covid-19 patients are currently in hospital in the UK, and although new daily cases and hospital admissions are falling, they are still relatively high.
NHS England figures show 80% of critical care beds were occupied in the week to 14 February, a slight fall from 83% the week before.
There are just under 4,800 patients in critical care, with 6,000 beds available.
Prof Elliott told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Nobody wants to be in lockdown any longer than they have to be but a note of warning – the prevalence rates are still very high. They are as high as they were in September when they were on the increase and the numbers of people in hospital currently are at a level that they were in the first wave so we really have to be cautious.”
While the virus is declining in all nine English regions, and substantially in the capital, South East and West Midlands, it is falling less steeply in the North West, North East and Yorkshire and the Humber.
This could be linked to tougher lockdown rules being introduced earlier in London and south-east England after a pre-Christmas surge in cases related to the more transmissible virus variant first discovered in Kent.
The report found falls in infections across all age groups, with 18 to 24-year-olds and five to 12-year-olds currently having the highest virus levels – although still below 1%.
It estimates the over-65s have the lowest levels of virus at 0.3%.