On Thursday, the U.S. Navy became the latest branch of the military to announce it will discharge sailors who don't meet their definition of "fully vaccinated" by November 28. Following President Biden's vaccine mandate, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin directed all military personnel to be vaccinated against COVID on August 25. As the deadline looms nearer, the military is now forced to deal with the reality that many service members will not comply -- and they are increasingly turning from diktats to punishments.
Unvaccinated sailors "are already suffering harassment and intimidation by their commanders," warned First Liberty Institute General Counsel Mike Berry. "They're being treated like second-class citizens." He also said the Navy plans to issue general (less than honorable) discharges to those who refuse the vaccine, which would "follow them around for the rest of their lives," inhibiting their ability to obtain VA benefits, unemployment benefits, medical benefits, etc. The Navy is also "trying to hit them in the pocketbook" by recouping from them money spent to train those who refuse the vaccine -- even as it kicks them out.
The Navy's new punishment scheme does nothing to accommodate conscientious objectors, either. In fact, no branch is, said Berry. "I'm not aware of a single religious exemption being granted across all four branches of the military," out of thousands. The Navy also won't make exceptions for medical conditions that prohibit vaccination, or even discuss the possibility of natural immunity, which the data show to offer better protection than the vaccine. If the military follows through with expelling servicemembers who don't comply with a mandate forced upon them with all the flexibility of a diamond, they may wake up one day to find they are severely understaffed, and unable to meet U.S. national security objectives.
Speaking of understaffed, several major police departments have thrown themselves off the cliff of chronic staff shortages by imposing vaccine mandates. If they choose to follow through on their threats and fire unvaccinated officers, they would cut their bungee cords, in effect. These departments already faced staffing shortages after hundreds of officers retired or quit last year -- not so much because they faced increasing violence but because they could no longer count on political support from their cities. This has thrown into doubt these community's ability to secure domestic tranquility at a time when the U.S. has experienced its largest-ever recorded annual increase in murders, according to new FBI statistics.
As an example, in Chicago, 4,543 police department employees, 35.6 percent, have not complied with the vaccine mandate that took effect on Friday. Only 54 percent of its officers have been vaccinated, while another 10.4 percent have agreed to twice-weekly testing rather than being vaccinated. In Seattle, which lost 200 officers last year, wearing a mask or submitting to regular testing are not options. Instead, Mayor Jenny Durkan begged officers to get vaccinated, offering them $1,750 and a total of 88 hours of leave. Nevertheless, by Sunday evening 6 percent of the 1,300-strong Seattle police force had not submitted proof of vaccination before the Monday deadline. Instead, they unfurled the Gadsden flag from their "Seattle Police" SUVs.
Through the end of September, Chicago had reported 524 murders in 2021, ahead of every year-to-date since 1996. King County, Washington (which includes Seattle) reported 73 murders in the same period, already more than its total for 2020. Chicago and Seattle are not unique; every major city is suffering an ongoing crime wave while trying to navigate out of this pandemic.
Yet at some point, officials must recognize that firing unvaccinated police officers (or unvaccinated servicemembers) will not make Americans safer.
This column appeared originally here.
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