While the coronavirus pandemic has now ebbed and flowed its way to a sort of viral low tide in the early days of 2023, the issue of whether or not to force vaccination against the illness remains a contentious and bitter dispute across the nation.
Americans, by and large, don’t like being told what to do by their government; just ask all the folks who had to fish the tea out of Boston Harbor all those years ago. This sort of anti-government sentiment is what keeps us free, in all honesty, and if we can’t even keep the government out of our bodies then all hope may very well be lost.
That’s why the latest news from the Pentagon is so relieving.
The Pentagon formally dropped its Covid-19 vaccination mandate Tuesday, but a new memo signed by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also gives commanders some discretion in how or whether to deploy troops who are not vaccinated.
Austin’s memo has been widely anticipated ever since legislation signed into law on Dec. 23 gave him 30 days to rescind the mandate. The Defense Department had already stopped all related personnel actions, such as discharging troops who refused the shot.
“The Department will continue to promote and encourage Covid-19 vaccination for all service members,” Austin said in the memo. “Vaccination enhances operational readiness and protects the force.”
The decision would allow commanding officers a great deal of leeway to discriminate against the unvaccinated, however.
Austin said that commanders have the authority to maintain unit readiness and a healthy force. He added, however, that other department policies — including mandates for other vaccines — remain in place. That includes, he said, “the ability of commanders to consider, as appropriate, the individual immunization status of personnel in making deployment, assignment, and other operational decisions, including when vaccination is required for travel to, or entry into, a foreign nation.”
For many military members, the relaxing of the rules comes a day late and a buck short.
Over 4,800 military personnel were removed from duty on account of their unvaccinated status while the policy was in place.