The covid-19 pandemic came as a major jolt to the global atmosphere. The US economy had to grapple with numerous deaths, health sector inconsistencies as well as shifts in job opportunities. Amidst all of this chaos, the vaccine came as a ray of hope; a way out of this state of disarray. That being said, not many people see it that way. A large chunk of the population still disregards the effect of vaccinations, and this belief extends to the venerable troops as well.
Religious Exemptions From Vaccines: So Far, A No-Go For The Troops
Over 12,000 members of the military service, are refusing to vaccinate themselves on the grounds of religious beliefs. However, they are being met with resilient bureaucratic red-tape, which is leading to a lot of anxiety among them.
While a major proportion of the US army troops have already been vaccinated, the group that is citing religious exemptions is witnessing no success even though exemption facilities are theoretically in place.
Chaplains find themselves in the middle of all this confusion since they form the link between the two sides of this story. While they must offer counsel to the troop members who genuinely wish to remain unvaccinated due to religious beliefs, they are also charged with the responsibility and knowledge that the vaccine can indeed help save lives.
Statistics show that at least 30,000 troop members remain unvaccinated, of which 10,000 have established solid grounds for exemptions. The remaining members find themselves wading through the convoluted process of establishing their premise for exemptions, and so far, the success rate has been zero.
The problem with establishing religious grounds is nothing something that has evolved overnight. In fact, this issue has been in existence way before the pandemic came into the picture. Growing beards of sporting religious artifacts have always been a matter of contention, and this issue is manifesting itself in the form of vaccine exemption problems even to this date.
The main issue with maintaining substantiating a religious exemption relates to the numerous consequences it can leave after it has been granted. While long chains of command slow down the process to a large extent, various other implications such as the readiness of the troops, its effect on the health of fellow troop members, risks to any future missions, et cetera also have to be taken into consideration, which poses as major hindrances towards granting such an exemption.
While service members and chaplains alike have been wrestling with interviews, memos, and other official processes, the officials are finding it difficult to process the overwhelming amount of requests that have come upon such grounds. The Air Force received over 4,700 requests, while the Navy and the Marine Corps are dealing with over 2,700 and 3,100 requests respectively.
Troop members who wish to bag an exemption on religious grounds have to deal with interviews aiming to establish the extent of their faith and gauge its validity. Most of the interviewees so far have attempted to justify their exemptions through beliefs including the fact that God has a plan for their life, and that he does not wish for them to be vaccinated right now. Some of them are even willing to forego their post in case the request is denied since they believe that that is how deep their belief runs and that it will pay off with God’s grace.
Chaplains conducting the interview are entrusted with the task of remaining absolutely impartial and establishing the consistency of the beliefs of such troop members. It also poses a huge burden on them, since such an accurate ascertainment of one’s belief can be quite insurmountable. However, interviews with them reveal that at this point in time, they are being fueled by a pure adrenaline rush.
The bottom line is that religious exemptions from vaccines enclose a very politically charged situation, which means that wriggling out of this conundrum is going to take some serious effort. The fact that the Vatican has given the go for vaccines, and that vaccines have the scientific backing necessary amidst such a health crisis, also has to be factored in. Either way, all that is left to do is to cling to faith and see what awaits such processes.