A Paratrooper assigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, prepares for a Airborne Operation at Fort Bragg, N.C., on May 7.
Spc. Hubert Delany III | US Army
WASHINGTON – White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday that U.S. service members who are eligible to get the Covid-19 vaccine but opt out are inadvertently “part of the problem” of lengthening the pandemic.
“You’re part of the solution to this outbreak,” explained Fauci to a virtual audience during a town hall with Blue Star Families, a non-profit dedicated to issues facing military families.
“Because by getting infected, even though you may not know it, you may be inadvertently transmitting the infection to someone else, even though you have no symptoms,” Fauci said. “In reality, like it or not, you’re propagating this outbreak. So instead of being part of the solution, you are innocently and inadvertently being part of the problem by not getting vaccinated.”
“You’ve got to think of your own health, which is really very important, but you got to think about your societal obligation, including people close to you personally as well as other members of families of other individuals,” Fauci said.
Last month, the Pentagon acknowledged that about one-third of U.S. military service members declined to take the voluntary coronavirus vaccine.
U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Felicia White, a supply chief with Camp Kinser Post Office, gets her arm disinfected to receive her second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa, on Camp Foster, Mar. 2, 2021.
U.S Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Zachary Larsen | U.S. Marine Corps
When asked if military leadership were disappointed with the revelation, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters last month that the decision to take the vaccine was ultimately up to each member of the force.
“Everybody is different and we want — what the secretary wants — is for the men and women of the department to make the best and most informed decision for them and for their health and the health of their families,” Kirby said, adding that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin did get the vaccine.
Meanwhile, the military’s U.S. Northern Command, which is responsible for the Pentagon’s coronavirus efforts, has tasked thousands of service members to help vaccinate communities across the nation.
Last week, Austin embarked on his first official trip since ascending to the top spot at the Pentagon to meet with military commanders overseeing the Covid-19 response effort in California.
Austin also visited a FEMA vaccination center in Los Angeles, the first staffed by both active-duty military teams as well as National Guard personnel.
Active duty and Army National Guard soldiers prepare to receive a mock, drive-thru vaccine recipient during an exercise at California State University, Los Angeles, Feb. 14, 2021.
U.S Army Capt. Daniel Parker | U.S. Army
Austin said the Pentagon has prioritized getting factual information out to the force in order to bolster confidence.
“There’s a degree of mistrust and I think we have to collectively work hard to dispel rumors and to provide facts to people,” Austin told reporters traveling with him. “And it’s been my experience that when armed with the facts, people will tend to make the right decisions.”
“My counsel to everyone is, I mean, this saves lives. And it’s not just about saving our life, it’s about saving our partner’s life, our neighbor’s life, and in the military, you know, we thrive on teamwork and we have to think about our teammates, as well,” he added.