By the thousands, US service members are refusing or putting off the COVID-19 vaccine as frustrated commanders scramble to knock down internet rumors and find the right pitch that will persuade troops to get the shot.
Some Army units are seeing as few as one-third agree to the vaccine. Military leaders searching for answers believe they have identified one potential convincer: an imminent deployment. Navy sailors on ships heading out to sea last week, for example, are choosing to take the shot at rates exceeding 80% to 90%.
Air Force Maj. Gen. Jeff Taliaferro, vice director of operations for the Joint Staff, tells Congress on Wednesday that “very early data” suggests that just up to two-thirds of the service members offered the vaccine have accepted.
That’s higher than the rate for the general population, which a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation put at roughly 50%. But the significant number of forces declining the vaccine is especially worrisome because troops often live, work and fight closely together in environments where social distancing and wearing masks, at times, are difficult.