What’s next for military members after FDA approval of Pfizer COVID vaccine?

Coronavirus

SAN DIEGO — With the FDA approving Pfizer’s COVID shot Monday, a vaccine mandate may be imminent for the military as the Pentagon confirmed it will be moving forward in requiring the coronavirus vaccine for its more than one million active-duty servicemembers.

According to the United States Department of Defense, there are more than 110,000 active-duty military personnel in San Diego County. As of last week, more than a million U.S. servicemembers were fully vaccinated, while some, are still holding off on getting the shot.

At MCAS Miramar, FOX 5 spoke with Diana Hernandez and she says her son, who is active duty in the Army, is one of those military members refusing to receive the vaccine.

“He’s thinking about seeing what he might have to do to get out,” Hernandez said. “He doesn’t know the repercussions, he doesn’t know what would happen if he does not get the vaccine, but he’s very adamant about not getting it.”

Earlier this month, the defense secretary said he wanted the president’s approval for a vaccine mandate no later than Sept. 15 or upon full FDA approval — whichever came first.

Local attorney Jeff Meeks, who is a former marine lieutenant colonel, says there’s no easy way now for servicemembers to get around the mandate.

“Your choice is yes, you can refuse to obey the order, but it’s just like refusing to obey any order and you can end up getting kicked out and the worst circumstance is go to jail,” Meeks said.

As for Hernandez, she says she’s encouraged her son to get the vaccine.

“He doesn’t feel comfortable, he doesn’t feel safe, he just has so many questions, so many doubts,” Hernandez said. “He told me that a lot of the soldiers in his unit, a lot of his friends, they’re with him since day one, they are like, ‘Nope, we are not taking the shot.’”

Meanwhile, the Pentagon says the mandate is only for the Pfizer vaccine. Approval is still pending for the Johnson & Johnson and Moderna coronavirus vaccines.

With the Delta variant continuing to surge, San Diego County public health officials on Monday reported 961 new COVID-19 infections.

The data increased the county’s cumulative case number to 324,537. No new deaths were reported, and that number remains 3,848.

There were eight additional coronavirus-related hospitalizations reported Monday.

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