“Acceptance rates are somewhere in the two-thirds territory,” said Major General Jeff Taliaferro, vice director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in Congressional hearing.
The US military cannot make vaccinations mandatory for troops because it has received only an emergency use and not full approval from the US food and Drug Administration (FDA).
That designation is expected to last up to two years while the FDA assesses the Covid vaccination’s efficacy and side effects.
Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby said, “There is a real limit, legally, that we have, to make it mandatory for our troops and their families.”
He said the high refusal rate is on par with that of the general US population, where the vaccine has not been offered nearly as widely.
“We in the military basically mirror the acceptance rates of American society,” Kirby said.
He noted that because the Covid vaccines have only been approved on an emergency basis, they cannot be forced on people.
Kirby also said Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin has received the Covid vaccine.
“What the secretary wants is for the men and women of the department to make the best and most informed decision for them and their health and the health of their families,” Kirby said.
Pentagon says it is encouraging members who are concerned about being vaccinated to read information available on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Pentagon websites and consult their doctors if they have any questions.
“We need to continue to educate our force and help them understand the benefits and ensure there’s leadership involvement in the discussion of the benefits of the vaccine,” Taliaferro said.
Members of Congress have voiced concern over the impact of the pandemic and vaccine hesitancy on US troop readiness, as US military training and exercises have been canceled or reduced for nearly a year.
Pentagon says 99 military exercises were canceled because of Covid-19 and 37 were postponed.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, 150,910 US service members have tested positive for Covid-19.
US Pfizer & Moderna vaccines produce less antibodies
New US studies show vaccines developed by American companies Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are producing fewer antibodies against the coronavirus mutation that has emerged in South Africa.
NEJM, the oldest US medical journal, published a study, saying that neutralization of the South African strain “was weaker by approximately two thirds,” but concluded that it was “unclear what effect” that would have on protection the vaccine provided from the disease.
Another study showed “reductions by a factor of 2.7” in the titers of neutralizing antibodies against the variant known as the B.1.351 – and by a factor of 6.4 when pitted against the full range of South African mutations.
They study was conducted by Moderna and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, whose head, Dr. Anthony Fauci, is the Biden administration’s “coronavirus czar.”
Both Moderna and Pfizer said they are preparing to develop an update or a booster shot if needed.
The South African strain shares some of the mutations with the previously discovered UK variant, known as B.1.1.7.
South Africa halted the vaccination with British drugmaker Astra Zeneca’s formula after a study showed it didn’t work as well in preventing Covid-19 caused by the mutant strain.