YPG Commander Col. Patrick McFall, Command Sgt. Maj. Herbert Gill, YTC Commander Lt. Col. Alicia Johnson, and other senior leaders hosted a panel discussion about vaccine mandates for interested members of the workforce at YPG’s post theater on November 18.
“The purpose of this forum is not to influence anybody’s decision,” said McFall. “It is merely to inform and allow you as great citizens of this great country to make a decision for yourself.”
The Department of the Army announced that active duty units were expected to be fully vaccinated by December 15, and National Guard units by June 30, 2022.
Fully vaccinated means that two weeks have elapsed since given the second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or after one dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
Additionally, Department of Defense (DOD) civilians and contractors have been mandated to either be fully vaccinated or be routinely tested for COVID-19 infection to maintain their access to DOD facilities to engage in official business. Though the deadline for full vaccination is November 22, YPG senior leaders emphasized that the Department of the Army is still developing an implementation plan regarding potential discipline and penalties for not complying with the directive to vaccinate and the possibility of routine testing in lieu of vaccination. This information will continue to be forthcoming from first-line supervisors as it becomes available.
“Please be patient,” said YPG Command Sgt. Maj. Herbert Gill. “We’re doing everything we can here. I know people are frustrated by how things are coming out.”
Likewise, specific procedures for seeking a religious exemption or an Equal Employment Opportunity reasonable accommodation request regarding the COVID-19 vaccination mandate have yet to be defined by the Department of the Army.
“At the end of the day, all of us took the oath of office and work for the Department of the Army or the Department of Defense,” said McFall. “I will implement all of the lawful policies and directives that they give us.”
According to the DOD, the vaccine mandate does not apply to so-called “ad hoc access” to DOD facilities, be it by an unaffiliated delivery truck driver or patrons of facilities of public benefit such as the commissary or post museum.
Likewise, family members who live on post will not be required to show proof of vaccination to access their homes.
In Yuma County, 72% of the population age 12 and over is fully vaccinated. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the Delta variant of COVID-19 is twice as contagious as the original variant that plagued the world last year, and may cause more severe illness in those who have not received the vaccine.
“We are still offering the vaccine and also the booster,” said Maj. Ashley Aiton, Officer in Charge of the YPG Health Clinic. “We do not have the pediatric doses of the vaccine at this time.”
The vaccines cannot cause COVID-19, and there is substantial evidence that they can help prevent COVID infection. Additionally, instances of so-called ‘breakthrough’ infections in individuals who have received the vaccine tend to be less severe than what is experienced by those who are not vaccinated. The reported side effects of the vaccine are mild in the overwhelming number of people who have received them, and according to medical personnel are a positive sign that it is working as intended. According to Aiton, as of November 15 the Department of Health and Human Services’ Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System has registered 9,810 deaths of any kind following vaccination out of 463 million doses administered in the United States, or 0.000021%.
The risk of anaphylactic shock, thrombosis, myocarditis, and Guillen-Barre are likewise extremely rare: for example, of 16 million doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine administered there were 50 confirmed cases of thrombosis and five confirmed deaths. There were also 258 confirmed cases of Guillen-Barre with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which translates to a 0.000016% chance of experiencing this side effect.
“Anaphylaxis can be treated pretty quickly in most family medical clinics,” said Aiton. “Most of the time it can be treated with epinephrine and steroids.”
As of November 18, Yuma County’s seven-day average of new COVID cases was 36 per day. As of the previous day, 51 of the 63 hospitalized COVID patients in Yuma County—81%-- were unvaccinated. Of these patients, 28 needed ventilators for breathing assistance. Doctors note that the most recent spike in COVID cases resulted in significantly fewer hospitalizations locally than during the peak in December 2020, strong evidence that the widespread vaccination is working. The number of total cases was also far less dramatic than in the days prior to the vaccines: Yuma County’s worst seven-day average in late August 2021 was 95 new COVID cases per day, compared to the average of 537 per day registered in mid-December 2020.
“I would recommend that when you are looking at research articles, make sure that they are reputable and that the population sample is large,” said Aiton.
YPG’s senior leaders urged members of the YPG Family to get their information on vaccines from trusted sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and other links found at https://www.yuma.army.mil/corona.html.
“This is a hard choice for some,” said McFall. “I respect that, I have empathy, and I have sympathy, but at the end of the day we will follow the Department of the Army’s guidance and directives.”