By Tom Squitieri
WASHINGTON — COVID vaccinations rates among the active duty force continue to rise, even as each service branch begins the process of determining what exemptions — if any – to consider and evaluate for those declaring objections to the shot.
Latest numbers show active-duty personnel with at least one dose is 96.9 percent and active-duty personnel that are fully vaccinated stands at 86.9 percent. Of the total force — meaning active, reserve ad other components — 82 percent have at least one dose, with the fully vaccinated percentage of the total force just over 68 percent.
“There’s not a lot of resistance,” Pentagon press spokesperson John Kirby said. “People understand that this is an important program, and they’re participating in it.”
Kirby reiterated that with respect to the exemption process each service will develop its own ways to handles requests.
He said it is not clear if an individual in one branch could find an exemption where he or she could not in another branch.
“Some people will be exempt medically. Some will certainly apply for a religious exemption. And each exemption asked for particularly those of religion will most likely be case-specific, individuals specific. So that’s a very difficult question to answer,” he said.
On medical exemptions, the variety of COVID vaccines and their differing makeups is likely to reduce opportunities for medical exemptions, legal excerpts said.
Likewise, those seeking exemption on medical or religious grounds may be asked if they take other medicines that also used fetal cells in their development, like Tylenol or Motrin.
There appear to be few religious exemptions actually available, according to both a panel of legal scholars speaking during a forum at Washington & Jefferson College, as well as statements by religious leaders.
The vast majority of Christian denominations have no theological opposition to vaccines, including Eastern Orthodox, Amish, Anglican, Baptist, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mennonites, Quakers and Pentecostal Christians, according to Vanderbilt University Medical Center research.
Catholic Pope Francis, who was vaccinated, urged all to get vaccinated, calling it “an act of love.”
“Thanks to God’s grace and to the work of many, we now have vaccines to protect us from Covid-19,” he said in an August video.
Some members of the Dutch Reformed Church decline vaccines because it “interferes with divine providence,” while others accept it as a gift from God. Church of Christ, Scientist, teaches that prayer will alleviate and prevent disease, so members may request vaccine exemptions, the Vanderbilt research shows. The denomination doesn’t strictly prohibit vaccination.
The Jewish faith supports vaccination as one of the most important tenets of the religion is preserving life. Protecting one’s health is a mitzvah, or obligation, according to Chabad.org. The Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Union for Reform Judaism, and the Orthodox Union all released statements supporting vaccination.
Buddhism has no central authority that determines doctrine, but the Dalai Lama received his COVID-19 vaccine in India in March. After receiving his shot, the Dalai Lama said, “Those other patients also should take this injection for greater benefit,” calling the shot “very, very helpful.”
Hinduism has no prohibition against vaccines. While Hindus venerate cows, trace bovine components of certain vaccines have not been identified as a theological concern.