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Greitens says he hasn’t received COVID-19 vaccine, but requirement for military looms

Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens. (Laurie Skrivan/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)

Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens said last week he hadn’t received the COVID-19 vaccine, but forthcoming Department of Defense rules could soon force the Republican U.S. Senate candidate to get the jab.

During a discussion on COVID-19 last week, Marc Cox, host of “The Marc Cox Morning Show” on KFTK, said he was glad the vaccine was available for those who wanted it and was opposed to people “being forced” to get vaccinated. He then asked Greitens if he had gotten the shot.

“I have not, Marc. I have not,” Greitens said.

Greitens’ comments distinguish the ex-governor from the four other prominent Republicans running for Senate, who have either said they received the shot or wouldn’t disclose their status.

But Greitens has been a member of the Bridgeton-based Maritime Expeditionary Security Squadron 10 since early 2020, according to Navy records. A Navy spokesperson confirmed Greitens’ status as of this week.

In an Aug. 9 announcement, the Department of Defense said Secretary Lloyd Austin would ask President Joe Biden to “make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for service members” by mid-September.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could fully approve the vaccines by the end of August.

“We certainly hope that they will take advantage of the opportunity to get the vaccines now that are available now to them on a voluntary basis,” he said. “But if they don’t, eventually we’re going to get to a mandatory sort of regimen and we’ll take care of it then.”

Biden has said he would sign off on the vaccine requirements. He said the rules are intended to assure military readiness.

“These vaccines will save lives. Period. They are safe. They are effective,” Biden said in the Department of Defense release. “Over 350 million shots have been given in the United States alone. Being vaccinated will enable our service members to stay healthy, to better protect their families, and to ensure that our force is ready to operate anywhere in the world.”

Maj. Charlie Dietz, spokesman for the Department of Defense, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch this week it was too early to discuss details of the future mandate, and didn’t indicate what exceptions were planned.

“At this time we do not have a COVID mandate and will not know the details until the plan comes out at the earliest next month,” he said Tuesday.

The Associated Press reported service members may ask for exemptions to vaccines already required — anthrax, chicken pox and flu shots, for example — for reasons including religious beliefs and health concerns.

The Aug. 9 release said nearly three-fourths of active-duty personnel had received their first doses.

Three of the five leading Republicans running for U.S. Senate in Missouri have disclosed that they’ve received the COVID-19 vaccine: U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, U.S. Rep. Billy Long and Attorney General Eric Schmitt.

St. Louis attorney Mark McCloskey said that information wasn’t any of the Post-Dispatch’s business.

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