Updated: Oct 15, 2021
Starting in December 2020, many United States citizens started receiving COVID-19 vaccinations. However, there is one particular group that has been declining the vaccine. Nearly 40% of Marines, or 48,000, who have been offered the opportunity to take the vaccine have declined the offer. The Marine Corps has roughly 102,000 Marines who still have not been able to take the vaccine. The COVID-19 pandemic has killed nearly 572,000 Americans and two dozen U.S. troops, so it begs the question of why so many members of a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces would refuse a vaccine that decreases the likelihood of getting or dying from the disease.
There are countless explanations for why several thousand Marines have declined the vaccine. According to Captain Andrew Wood, a spokesman for Headquarters Marine Corps, an individual may have deferred until later to allow others to get the vaccine. Or, they may have gotten the vaccine on their own and not through military channels. Additionally, they could be unavailable for a second dose in the prescribed time period for the vaccines that require two shots. Some expect the vaccine to become mandatory and are waiting until then. Others may be allergic to one of the compounds in the vaccine. Even if a Marine declines a vaccine, they are still eligible to receive it when the next opportunity presents itself.
Some Marines are hesitant to get the vaccine due to concerns about how fast the vaccines were developed. Despite several clinical trials having been conducted on the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines before being submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency authorization, many still question their long-term effects.
Along with the concerns of a vaccine’s effectiveness, a driving cause for reluctance to the vaccine relies on partisanship, a strong and sometimes blind adherence to a particular party, faction, cause, or person. “Reluctance to get the vaccine is driven more by partisanship than any single demographic factor. It says a lot about the depth of our partisan divide that it could impact public health like this,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.
Because COVID-19 vaccines only have emergency use authorization from the FDA, the military, which includes the Marine Corps, cannot make vaccines mandatory for its service members. However, a waiver from the President could bypass that rule. Seven Democratic members of Congress sent and signed a letter to President Biden requesting that he issue a waiver of informed consent to COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for all U.S. military service members.
Through Teen Lenses: Do you believe that people should have the option to not take a vaccine? Why or why not?
I believe that people should have an option to take the vaccines. It is a fluid that’s being injected into their bodies, so they should have a choice. However, there should be restrictions on those who refuse to take it, such as extended mask mandates. They are still putting others at risk, so they need to take the necessary precautions before entering a public crowd. Anu Daga, 15, Chantilly High School, Chantilly, VA
I believe that the vaccine should be mandatory for everyone if they want to be able to get back to pre-COVID life. There should only be a few times where one can be exempt from the vaccine. Making the vaccine mandatory for everyone will ensure people don’t get COVID and we eventually develop herd immunity. Pranav Sakamuri, 14, Lassiter High School, Marietta, GA
While I do think that taking the vaccine should still be optional, it is important for the miss- information to end. The vaccine is a crucial step in stopping the spread of the virus. It is important that reliable, factual information is being put out for the public. This allows people to make a proper judgment as to whether or not they should receive the vaccine instead of basing their decisions on bogus information putting them at higher risk for the disease. Nithya Ramani, 16, South Lakes High School, Herndon, VA