Several days ago, the Navy released an Administrative Order that requires all active duty and reserve Sailors to be fully vaccinated by November 24 of this year or be administratively separated from the service,

According to the Order, “active duty Navy service members must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 NLT 28 November 2021, and Ready Reserve Navy service members NLT 28 December 2021.”

“Navy service members refusing the COVID-19 vaccination, absent a pending or approved exemption, shall be processed for administrative separation..”

Of course, this generated a great hue and cry over a supposedly blanket right to refuse vaccinations in the military, which simply doesn’t exist. Anyone who has served in the military recalls a seemingly constant series of vaccinations given in both arms with needles and jet injectors. And then there is the infamous “peanut butter” shot of Bicillin they inject into your buttocks with a needle so big you can see the hole in the tip of it from 10 feet away. They do this because this anti-bacterial needs deep intramuscular absorption apparently. The result is a stinging pain, then a burning sensation, and then a butt cheek so sore for several days that you sit kinked over to one side at chow.

Running, The vaccine “Gauntlet” in boot camp, Navy style.

The fun doesn’t end there, of course. Every time you deploy overseas your vaccination records are checked and a new round of vaccinations is given. This time for diseases in the parts of the world that we don’t vaccinate for here in the U.S.

Going to Africa?

Okay, get over medical, you need shots for hepatitis A & B, yellow fever, typhoid, cholera, meningitis, and rabies and anthrax too. While you have your arm out we might as well boost you for tetanus, diptheria, measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis, shingles, chickenpox, the flu, and pneumonia. And here’s a bump for your polio immunity as well if we can still find a vein to stick a needle into after the other ones.

And you can’t refuse any of them.

In the military, there are lots of things you can’t refuse to do, say, or wear. The uniform and grooming “regulations” are just that “regulations” on your personal liberties. To serve in the military is to surrender a very significant part of your civil liberties under the Constitution, but you are well apprised of that when you volunteer. Your rights are not being curtailed forcibly, you volunteer to give them up.  If you, at any time, withdraw the voluntary surrender of your rights prior to the end of your enlistment contract, the military can take disciplinary action against you up to and including kicking you out of the military.

And that is what the Navy and other branches of the service are doing here. If you refuse, you will be discharged from the service.

And not without good reasons when it comes to COVID. Infectious disease is the constant enemy of armies and navies all through history. Scurvy plagued the Royal Navy so they went to great lengths to procure territory to grow limes on to give to their sailors, which resulted in the British sometimes being called “limeys,” affectionately and not so affectionately, too. As it turned out, it was vitamin C that actually cured scurvy and limes were very low in C, while oranges, followed by lemons had higher concentrations. The U.S. Navy of the 18th century was a lemon navy. Lemon juice was added to water and molasses to cut the sourness and lemonade became a drink in the U.S. that we still drink today.

In the Continental Army, General George Washington would have you flogged if you got caught not using the latrines. and issued curious orders to his army like this one,

“No person is to be allowed to go to Fresh-water pond a-fishing or on any other occasion, as there may be danger of introducing the small pox into the army.”

No, General Washington did not think fishing would give you smallpox. Smallpox had already broken out and there was a quarantine hospital for smallpox cases about a mile and a half from his camp at Fresh Pond. Washington managed to control the outbreak and keep his army intact.

During WWII, the carrier USS Saratoga and British carrier HMS Illustrious were operating together in the Pacific. The Illustrious had a sudden outbreak of diphtheria (which has a five to 10 percent fatality rate) threatening the ship’s entire crew. The next day a B-24 Liberator appeared and airdropped a waterproof case full of antitoxin to treat it. The ships were hundreds of miles from the nearest port.

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The outbreak of a contagious disease aboard a naval vessel far from land or among a combat unit in the field can take them out of the fight. Two thousand hospital beds to treat patients are in short supply in combat zones. Aboard a mighty nuclear-powered aircraft carrier the Sick-Bay may only have 20 or so beds. In military units, the close living and working conditions make infectious diseases spread very quickly, so the military inoculates servicemembers against everything it possibly can.

This brings to mind the reason the military is requiring a mandatory vaccination for a virus with such a low fatality rate when it does not require all service members to get vaccinated for the flu every year. There are several reasons:

First, the flu is seldom fatal among the relatively young and healthy population of the military services.

Second, the flu vaccine is only about 70-75 percent effective against all the different strains that pop up every year.

Third, over-the-counter medications can treat the flu.

Fourth, the flu is not novel, we have grown to accept it and live with it.

Now it could be argued that COVID is no more deadly to people than the flu is but that is very hard to prove at this point. While we are counting (and perhaps overcounting) COVID deaths very carefully, we are only really guessing and estimating the number of annual deaths from the flu so a fair comparison can’t really be made here.

The military itself, which numbers 2.4 million, has had very few COVID deaths. Is it less than 60 deaths? While a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found no risk of death associated with taking the vaccine, it did cite some 23 cases of males suffering from a mild form of heart inflammation following vaccination, but that after 2.2 million doses of the vaccine had been given to servicemembers.

If a rational, thinking person was weighing the risks versus the benefits of getting the vaccination the facts appear to be self-evidently in favor of getting the vaccine.

Three million two hundred thousand vaccine doses have been administered in the military, a healthy and monitored population with access to immediate medical care. There have been no fatalities from the vaccine and only a few cases of exceedingly rare side effects that require little treatment to correct.

Versus, over 720,000 deaths from COVID in the United States.

That isn’t a hard choice to make in my opinion. it’s not even close.

Not long ago, COVID vaccination in the military was voluntary, but that is likely because the vaccines were operating under an FDA Emergency Use Authorization absent the normal years-long process of testing them for safety and efficacy. Now, that we have tens of millions of test subjects in the form of vaccinated persons in the U.S., there is every reason to believe the vaccines are safe in the broadest sense, and certainly much safer than getting COVID.

Now the good news is that 98 percent of the Navy is already vaccinated, and there are medical and religious exemptions being granted, but outright refusals will result in administrative separation from the service with either an Honorable or General Under Honorable Conditions discharge which is not Thor’s Hammer falling on you.

The fact that 98 percent of Navy personnel have received the vaccine may tell us something useful about refusals in the remaining two percent, which is quite low. Let’s assume that half of that two percent is comprised of people who have gotten either a medical or religious waiver leaving just one percent outright refusing. This is much lower than the refusal rate of the general population which is said to be as high as 30 percent. The Navy achieved this 98 percent vaccination rate while the vaccine was voluntary. The low rate of refusal while it was still voluntary probably comes from the fact that servicemembers are more used to being vaccinated and because they are getting better information on the risks of the vaccine than people just reading something unfavorable on social media about it.

Politics certainly comes into play in refusals among the general population. In September 2021, Forbes did an analysis of nationwide polls regarding refusal and found that 21 percent of people between 18- and 29-years old will never get the vaccine. This is most likely because people in this age group believe they are immortal and cannot ever die from anything. This is also why our wars tend to be fought by people in this age group.

Eighteen percent of all males say they will never get the shot either. This may not just be bravado. Back in April, I wrote that a fear of needles could make it very hard to attain 100 percent vaccination rates in the U.S. and that about 20 percent of the population are deathly afraid of needles. This is more prevalent in men than women. Some of that is surely mixed into this number.

Forty-six percent of Republicans state that they will not get the vaccine. The number has fallen to about 20 percent since Forbes’s analysis was done. That one makes sense. Republicans are the most distrustful of government power and the most resistant to government telling them what to do in the form of a mandate. On the other hand, the Forbes analysis finds 86 percent of Democrats have gotten the shot with refusal running at five percent. Also a reflection of their trust in government and willingness to get vaccinated on the government’s request.  While I would say that human history makes a certain distrust of government entirely justified, a distrust of the vaccine just because the government wants you to get it, probably isn’t.

Some of those refusals may also come from those who have had COVID and believe that prior exposure gives them a stronger immunity than the vaccine can provide, which is most likely true according to recent studies that have come out.

So in closing, I hope SOFREP members come away understanding that the military isn’t really forcing vaccinations onto service members, as 98 percent of Sailors voluntarily consented to the vaccination before this mandatory measure was adopted.

The number of people discharged for persistent refusal without a medical or religious waiver will likely be in the hundreds, not thousands.