Pentagon Pauses Plan to Vaccinate Gitmo Detainees After Public Backlash

GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA - OCTOBER 28: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been reviewed by U.S. Military prior to transmission) A group of detainees kneels during an early morning Islamic prayer in their camp at the U.S. military prison for 'enemy combatants' on October 28, 2009 in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Although U.S. …
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The Pentagon on Saturday announced it would pause a plan to vaccinate Guantanamo Bay detainees, after backlash from Americans unable to get the coronavirus vaccine.

Pentagon Chief Spokesman John Kirby tweeted “No Guantanamo detainees have been vaccinated. We’re pausing the plan to move forward, as we review force protection protocols. We remain committed to our obligations to keep our troops safe.”

The New York Times‘ Carol Rosenberg first reported that the Pentagon planned to offer detainees the vaccine, before millions of Americans would be eligible to receive it.

The plan sparked outrage from Republican lawmakers, as well as 9/11-first responders. The detention facility holds some of the alleged plotters of the 9/11 attacks, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Tom Von Essen, who served as New York City Fire Commissioner during 9/11 and lost 343 firefighters that day, told the New York Post:

You can’t make this up. The ridiculousness of what we get from our government. They will run the vaccine down to those lowlifes at Guantanamo Bay before every resident of the United States of America gets it is the theater of the absurd. … It’s f—ing nuts.

Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY) tweeted about Mohammed: “He should be getting the death penalty, not the vaccine! This is insulting to all Americans waiting for the vaccine, particularly sick 9/11 first responders & recovery workers who can’t get vaccine and those in my district who lost hundreds of loved ones.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) tweeted before the Pentagon paused the plan. “President Biden told us he would have a plan to defeat the virus on day 1,” McCarthy wrote. “He just never told us that it would be to give the vaccine to terrorists before most Americans.”

After the pause’s announcement, he tweeted: “Good.”

According to the Times, senior defense official Terry Adirim signed a memo authorizing the vaccination of the detainees as early as this week.

Last week, the Pentagon’s top coronavirus adviser Max Rose briefed the media, but did not mention the plans to vaccinate detainees.

Joint Staff Surgeon Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul Friedrichs, who briefed alongside Rose, said not everyone in the Pentagon’s first priority group of frontline workers had been vaccinated yet.

“We began vaccinations at select sites in December of last year and have now vaccinated almost everyone who requested vaccines in our very first group. Those are the frontline workers, police, EMS, those caring for patients or military personnel with COVID [coronavirus],” he said Thursday.

Fredrichs said the next group to be vaccinated would be those over 75, personnel preparing to deploy, personnel with strategic or national security roles, and key frontline workers such as teachers, support staff, child and youth services.

He warned that it would be “months” before Pentagon personnel would be vaccinated.

“I want to be clear that as you’ve seen across the country and as many leaders have said, this is going to be months. This is not weeks, so I don’t want to create a perception in anyone’s mind that everyone is going to be vaccinated in the next few weeks here. This is a very deliberate process based on the supply of vaccine as it comes through,” he said.

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