On Thursday, leading U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said U.S. service members choosing not to take COVID-19 vaccines are “part of the problem” in prolonging the pandemic.
During a virtual town hall held by Blue Star Families, a non-profit supporting service members and military families, Fauci said of U.S. service members, “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. 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,” Fauci said.
“When vaccines become available to you, please take the vaccine, it is the best and most important intervention that we have,” Fauci urged service members.
Asked by Blue Star Families CEO Kathy Roth-Douquet whether service members, who are generally young and healthy, should get the vaccine, Fauci said “it’s extremely important.”
Douquet noted that currently, about 30 percent of military service members who are eligible for the vaccine have opted out of getting it. Fauci, addressing that statistic, said “when you get vaccinated it is not only to protect yourself, your own health and obviously a young, strong healthy man or woman in the military understandably would have the feeling ‘well the chances of my getting seriously ill are very, very small.”
Fauci said COVID-19 outbreaks on confined Navy ships have been particularly concerning to the readiness of the U.S. military.
“Obviously we want to have force protection, as we all know, and there are many ways for force protection,” Fauci said. “Certainly when you’re having a situation where even though the overwhelming majority of these individuals are young healthy men and women, some have underlying conditions and some can in fact have an outcome that can be severe.”
Fauci said while military members believe their chances of falling ill with COVID-19 are low, some do develop serious illness. According to the Pentagon, 24 service members have died from COVID-19. Fauci said beyond the health of military individuals, they should also be concerned for the health of their family and potentially vulnerable family members, such as those who are elderly or who have comorbidities.
Currently military members are not required to take the current COVID-19 vaccines, which are all approved through emergency use authorizations (EUAs) by the Food and Drug Administration. However, COVID-19 vaccines may become mandatory if they do receive full FDA approval.
“Obviously we’re thinking about what happens when they become FDA-approved,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Kirby said last week. ” . . . It would change the character of the decision-making process about whether they could be mandatory or voluntary, but I don’t want to get ahead of that process right now.”
In a separate interview segment with Douquet, Fauci addressed some concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines, including the speed with which they were developed.
Fauci said, “People ask ‘well wait a minute, you developed this vaccine literally in less than a year from the time you knew about this new virus. You always tell us that it takes five to seven to ten years. How did that happen? Were you reckless? Did you rush? Did you cut corners?'”
Fauci said the speed the vaccines were developed was completely related to new advances in science and no corners were cut in developing them.