COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine and First Lady Fran DeWine met with members of the Ohio Army National Guard on Thursday.
They were there to see them off as the members prepared to deploy to hospitals across the state to help with the COVID-19 surge.
“All of us depend on our hospitals to protect us, and now the National Guard is involved in protecting our hospitals,” Gov. DeWine said.
But not all of the guard members are protected themselves. Only about 56% of the Ohio Army National Guard members are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Another 11% have gotten their first shot.
“This is a high-risk operation, you need to be protected,” Gov. DeWine said. “The best way for you to be protected is to get the vaccination. So, look, we’re not happy with where we are. We’re going to continue to push that with our troops.”
The Ohio adjutant general agrees, sharing that the anecdotes from the hospitals don’t do justice to the “strife” the employees are experiencing.
“The reality is, the vaccine is a part of medical readiness,” Maj. Gen. John C. Harris Jr. said “We consider it an aspect of medical readiness. I would never put a soldier or airman in harm’s way without the best protection we could put on them – body armor, helmets – I would never put them in harm’s way. I’d be an irresponsible leader if I did that, and this medical readiness is the exact same thing.”
That’s just one reason Maj. Gen. Harris is moving up the state deadline for vaccinations. The federal government has set a deadline of June 30 for National Guard members to be vaccinated. But Maj. Gen. Harris has set a deadline for Ohio members of March 31.
“It is concerning to me that our soldiers – listen, these folks who are refusing this vaccine are good people,” he said. “They’re folks who have taken that oath, they’re the less than one percent who said, I’ll stand up and serve my country, so I certainly don’t want to vilify the people who aren’t taking the vaccine. I am disappointed that there’s so much conflicting information that makes it a very difficult decision, so our goal is to make sure that we provide the best information, continue to keep our service members informed, and encouraging them to make the right decision.”