Hawaii – Mass Military Vaccination Program

Picture of the US Flag

By: T. Jeffersonian

The population of the State of Hawaii is currently 1.422 residents, and is growing every day. Out of the 1.422 million, the military accounts for 42,000 active-duty men and women stationed in the islands. There are also 112,000 veterans and 9,400 National Guardsmen and Reservists here. Thus ten percent of Hawaii’s population are either current members of the military or have previously served in the United States armed forces. 

Thousands of Service members and civilians are currently accepting Coronavirus vaccines at Pearl Harbor as part of a massive operation undertaken by the U.S. Navy to vaccinate as many people as possible. Commanders describe these vaccinations as a part of military readiness which is essential to national security. Officers are further describing the mass vaccination effort to maintain a war-like posture. The end result desired from this mass vaccination effort is to ensure the health of service members, and ensure that commands are able to deploy at a moment’s notice without worry that a Coronavirus outbreak within their ranks will take combat units out of a potential fight overseas. 

The military refuses to announce how many vaccines are being administered at installations in Hawaii, but the Department of Defense has reported that more than 900,000 doses have been administered nationwide. Some 147,000 service members have gotten both shots. Currently the military is not forcing vaccinations on the service members. Coronavirus vaccinations are voluntary and about one-third of eligible service members actually have refused the shots. 

Comparatively, Hawaii has administered 360,000 vaccines with 236,400 having received one dose and 122,500 citizens being fully vaccinated. Just under nine percent of the state has been fully vaccinated which is only 1-2 percent behind the Department of Defense’s reported overall numbers. 

The military most likely is hesitant to report many vaccines are being delivered to Hawaiian installations, because the military is giving the vaccines to a higher percentile faster than the state of Hawaii. It is also highly probable that the military is receiving doses faster than the state is receiving them, although both are experiencing delays due to the recent severe winter weather on the mainland. As we are all aware, the Coronavirus does not distinguish between military and civilian targets. We are all front-line human soldiers in a viral war. Seeing one segment of the population receive the vaccine faster could lead to local residents feeling frustrated with both our federal and state governments.

The military in Hawaii and DOD at large are keeping a tight lid on vaccination statistics given recent military embarrassments associated with the Coronavirus spread on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the firing of its commanding officer, the ousting of two Secretaries of the Navy, the firings of two Secretaries of Defense, bases named after Confederate traitors, Fort Hood failure to protect against sexual assault and murder, and the alleged extremism now prevalent within the military ranks. Naval Ships other than USS Theodore Roosevelt also experienced outbreaks with some of those outbreaks rumored to have occurred right here in Hawaii. None of these outbreaks made the local or national news due to the military’s deliberate information suppression measures undertaken to deny degradation in their readiness. The state is also requesting storage areas for pandemic response equipment.  Much of Hawaii’s available storage capacity is either located on federal land (the military bases) or is contracted to support the military. Because the military has consumed the majority of available storage on the islands already, the state is requesting access to any excess storage facilities. These requests were met with federal requests that the state sublease storage facilities. How can the state afford these additional expenses when the state is already $1.4 billion in debt?

The military vaccination enterprise in Hawaii is indeed an efficient, well run machine. It is a machine that the average Hawaiian citizen thinks could easily be employed domestically to assist with local resident pandemic prevention and response. Average U.S. citizens do not often realize that there are legal prohibitions that bar the U.S. military from being employed inside the United States. There are certain exceptions to the domestic employment prohibitive rules, such as employment to suppress a declared insurrection, but none of these exceptions enable the U.S. military to be employed in Hawaii during Coronavirus.

Governor David Ige has the ability to mobilize the Hawaiian National Guard during pandemic emergencies, but there are less than 10,000 National Guardsmen. Barely a fraction of the National Guard is medically trained to administer vaccines. Furthermore, many of the Guardsmen are already mobilized elsewhere or are firefighters, police officers, and other first responders who are needed most where they are now. 

Nonetheless, well done and continued success wished for the military vaccination effort in Hawaii. In a viral war, every contagious human being is an enemy weapon. The military here has the potential to take 10 percent of contagious enemy weapons off the Hawaiian viral battlefield. That would be a big win for all Hawaiians.