Report: Sen. Blackburn Introducing Bill Shielding National Guard From Vaccine-Related Firings

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., is set to introduce legislation Thursday that would ban federal funds to any government entity or program requiring members of the National Guard to get the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a report from The Daily Caller.

This news coincides with Thursday reports of 40,000 U.S. Army National Guard members being fired for refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

If Blackburn’s legislation should pass the House and Senate chambers, it would block servicemembers from being removed over vaccine hesitancy.

“Our servicemembers are the bedrock of America,” Blackburn told TDC this week. “Firing 40,000 Guardsmen for refusing the COVID vaccine would be both a complete disgrace and a threat to our national security. I am honored to stand beside our National Guardsmen and women by introducing this legislation to protect them from President Biden’s forever pandemic.”

“We’re going to give every soldier every opportunity to get vaccinated and continue their military career. Every soldier that is pending an exemption, we will continue to support them through their process,” Lt. Gen. Jon Jensen, director of the Army National Guard, told the Associated Press, regarding vaccine mandates.

“We’re not giving up on anybody until the separation paperwork is signed and completed. There’s still time.”

Citing an Associated Press report, Ricky Shelton, a Tennessee National Guard captain from Grainger County who is a member of the 230th Sustainment Brigade, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press he had been unsuccessfully trying to meet with Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, in advance of the June 30 firing date.

“They’ve ignored and they’ve ignored and diverted and tried to avoid whether it’s an event we invited them to or whatever it may be,” said Shelton. “So, they’ve avoided us like a plague.”

Here are the components of Senator Blackburn’s proposal:

  • No federal funds may be used to require a member of the National Guard to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • The Secretary of Defense may not take any adverse action against a member of the National Guard, due to that person’s COVID-19 vaccine refusal.
  • The Department of Defense, or any other government entity, wouldn’t be able to retaliate, dole out punishment, or treat a National Guard member disparately for not receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

Blackburn’s proposal comes two days after Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, reportedly asked Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to ”indefinitely postpone” enforcing the DOD’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for members of the state’s Army National Guard.

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Biden Officials Ask Teachers to Help Promote Kids’ COVID-19 vaccines

Two Biden administration officials are calling on Early Childhood Education teachers to encourage parents to get their small children vaccinated against COVID-19.

According to The Hill, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and Heath and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra co-signed a Wednesday letter to teachers, saying, “We appreciate your leadership, dedication, perseverance, and resilience, and honor your efforts that consistently put the needs of children first.”

The secretaries then added, “As trusted messengers, staff of ECE programs and schools play a vital role in spreading the good news that COVID-19 vaccination is available for our youngest children. You are essential in encouraging parents and guardians to learn about and access vaccines for all children 6 months of age and older, which will be available free at no cost.”

Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cleared a path for children older than 6 months and under age 5 to receive COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and/or Moderna.

Cardona and Becerra are tasking ECE staffers with three objectives: 

  • Encourage parents to connect with healthcare providers.
  • Share information about COVID-19 vaccines with families with eligible children.
  • Partner with local healthcare providers to host vaccination clinics at their facilities or neighborhoods.

The HHS says there are “ample funds” available for its “We Can Do This” campaign, through the American Rescue Plan Act’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, as a means of reimbursing the cost of hosting vaccination clinics.

In February, the CDC estimated that 75% of unvaccinated children and teenagers in America had already acquired antibodies in their system to ward off or minimize the effects of the coronavirus. 

In the study, the CDC examined blood samples taken from all age groups, testing for specific antibodies that develop only after COVID-19 infection.

Not all doctors and politicians, however, are supporting the vaccinate-your-children initiative.

Dr. Peter McCullough, the chief medical adviser to the Truth For Health Foundation, recently questioned the government’s supposed haste in touting an “experimental” vaccine, given how the vast majority of children are resilient against the coronavirus.

“I think it was a mistake for the FDA to approve it,” McCullough told Newsmax host Amanda Brilhante on June 19. “And clearly the CDC recommendation probably won’t be followed by a lot of the parents.”

“Children have a very mild syndrome [relative to COVID]. It’s not like our senior citizens, who are at risk,” said McCullough, while adding the coronavirus is “easily managed” by children.

On Tuesday, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, blasted PBS and HBO for using the “Sesame Street” character Elmo to “aggressively advocate” for vaccinating children under 5, without citing scientific evidence.

“Thanks, @sesamestreet for saying parents are allowed to have questions!” Cruz tweeted along with a video clip of Elmo’s dad, Louie.

“You then have @elmo aggressively advocate for vaccinating children UNDER 5. But you cite ZERO scientific evidence for this,” added Cruz.

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Virginia Governor Asks DOD to Postpone Vaccine Mandate for National Guard

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, asked Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Tuesday to ”indefinitely postpone” enforcing the Department of Defense’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for members of the state’s Army National Guard, according to The Hill.

In a letter that was also signed by Virginia GOP congressmen Bob Good, Rob Wittman, Ben Cline and Morgan Griffith, Youngkin asserts that the vaccine mandate will push guard members out at a time when they are most needed.

”This directive will unnecessarily impact troop readiness, at a time when the Virginia National Guard has substantial deployments and as our nation enters hurricane season,” the letter reads. ”These guardsmen deserve the opportunity to continue to serve, and we need them.”

The letter also points to recently lifted mask and vaccine mandates in other areas, natural immunity to the coronavirus and treatments as reasons to do away with the mandate, The Hill reports.

”We know you share our great appreciation and respect for the brave men and women of our National Guard,” Youngkin concludes. ”Their service and sacrifice reflect their commitment to our country and the principles embodied in our nation.

”A select number of them have made a decision not to get vaccinated and whether that decision is based on sincerely held religious beliefs, their own medical choices, or another matter of conscience, our nation should respect and accommodate it.”

Austin has said that as defense secretary, he has the authority to set medical requirements, including vaccination mandates.

The Virginia Republicans’ letter is the latest attempt from the GOP to push Austin toward axing the mandate, according to The Hill. Army Reserve and Army National Guard members have until Thursday to get vaccinated or request an exemption. They could be disciplined or removed from the service if they opt to do neither.

According to The Associated Press, up to 40,000 Army National Guard members across the country — or about 13% of the force — have not yet gotten the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Military Times reports that 3,400 troops have been involuntarily separated from service for refusing to take the vaccine.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, both Republicans, have also been vocal in objecting to the vaccine mandate for the National Guard, according to The Hill.

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Army Guard Troops Risk Dismissal as Vaccine Deadline Looms

Up to 40,000 Army National Guard soldiers across the country — or about 13% of the force — have not yet gotten the mandated COVID-19 vaccine, and as the deadline for shots looms, at least 14,000 of them have flatly refused and could be forced out of the service.

Guard soldiers have until Thursday to get the vaccine. According to data obtained by The Associated Press, between 20% to 30% of the Guard soldiers in six states are not vaccinated, and more than 10% in 43 other states still need shots.

Guard leaders say states are doing all they can to encourage soldiers to get vaccinated by the time limit. And they said they will work with the roughly 7,000 who have sought exemptions, which are almost all for religious reasons.

“We’re going to give every soldier every opportunity to get vaccinated and continue their military career. Every soldier that is pending an exemption, we will continue to support them through their process,” said Lt. Gen. Jon Jensen, director of the Army National Guard, in an Associated Press interview. “We’re not giving up on anybody until the separation paperwork is signed and completed. There’s still time.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last year ordered all service members — active-duty, National Guard and Reserves — to get the vaccine, saying it is critical to maintaining the health and readiness of the force. The military services had varying deadlines for their forces, and the Army National Guard was given the longest amount of time to get the shots, mainly because it’s a large force of about 330,000 soldiers who are widely scattered around the country, many in remote locations.

The Army Guard’s vaccine percentage is the lowest among the U.S. military — with all the active-duty Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps at 97% or greater and the Air Guard at about 94%. The Army reported Friday that 90% of Army Reserve forces were partially or completely vaccinated.

The Pentagon has said that after June 30, Guard members won’t be paid by the federal government when they are activated on federal status, which includes their monthly drill weekends and their two-week annual training period. Guard troops mobilized on federal status and assigned to the southern border or on COVID-19 missions in various states also would have to be vaccinated or they would not be allowed to participate or be paid.

To make it more complicated, however, Guard soldiers on state activate duty may not have to be vaccinated — based on the requirements in their states. As long as they remain in state duty status, they can be paid by the state and used for state missions.

At least seven governors formally asked Austin to reconsider or not enforce the vaccine mandate for National Guard members, and some filed or signed on to lawsuits. In letters to the governors, Austin declined, and said that the coronavirus “takes our service members out of the fight, temporarily or permanently, and jeopardizes our ability to meet mission requirements.” He said Guard troops must either get the vaccine or lose their Guard status.

Jensen and Maj. Gen. Jill Faris, director of the Guard’s office of the Joint Surgeon General, said they are working with states adjutants general to get progress updates, including on the nearly 20,000 troops who are not flat refusals and haven’t submitted any type of exemption request. Some, they said, may just be a lag in self-reporting, while others may still be undecided.

“Part of those undefined are our soldiers who say, well, I have until 30 June and so I’ll take till 30 June,” said Jensen.

Others may have promised to bring in vaccine paperwork, and haven’t done it yet. Still others are on the books, but haven’t yet reported to basic training, so don’t have to be vaccinated until they get there. It’s not clear how many are in each category.

Jensen acknowledged that if the current numbers hold, there are concerns about possible impact on Guard readiness in the states, including whether it will affect any Guard units preparing to deploy.

“When you’re looking at, 40,000 soldiers that potentially are in that unvaccinated category, absolutely there’s readiness implications on that and concerns associated with that,” said Jensen. “That’s a significant chunk.”

Overall, according to the data obtained by the AP, about 85% of all Army Guard soldiers are fully vaccinated. Officials said that if those with one shot are counted, 87% are at least partially vaccinated.

Across the country, in all but one case, Guard soldiers are vaccinated at a higher rate that the general population in their state. Only in New Jersey is the percentage of vaccinated Guard solders very slightly lower than the state’s overall population, as of earlier this month when the data was collected.

The three U.S. territories — Virgin Islands, Guam and Puerto Rico — and the District of Columbia, all have more than 90% of their soldiers fully vaccinated. The highest percentage is in Hawaii, with nearly 97%, while the lowest is Oklahoma, at just under 70%.

Guard leaders in the states have run special shot programs, and provided as much information as possible to their forces in order to keep them on the job.

In Tennessee, they set up small teams in the east, west and central regions and did monthly events providing vaccines to troops who wanted them. And every Wednesday, Guard members could make appointments for shots in the middle Tennessee region, in Smyrna. In addition, in early June they called in all soldiers who have so far refused the vaccine.

“We held a big, mass event,” said Army Guard Col. Keith Evans. “We had all of our medical providers here. So if there were any questions to clear up, any misconceptions, any misinformation, we had all of our our data and were able to provide them all the information.”

Evans, who is commander of his Army Guard’s medical readiness command, said they also had recruiting and other leaders there who could explain what would happen if soldiers chose to not get the shot and ended up leaving the Guard.

“We wanted to let them know what benefits they had earned because these are soldiers that had had done their time, served their country,” said Evans.

Officials say they believe the information campaign has been working. Jensen said that about 1,500 soldiers a week around the country are moving into the vaccinated category. “We expect, as we approach the deadline, that we’ll see some some larger growth.”

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LIVE NOW: Pro-Life Center Braces for Planned Extremist Attack; Twitter Suspends Doctor for Sharing Vax Study

Hours after the Supreme Court overruled the abortion case Roe v. Wade, President Joe Biden called on people who protest to do so peacefully. Nevertheless, the CEO of a pro-life pregnancy center in Buffalo, New York, says they are increasing their security because they could be attacked Friday night. A physician epidemiologist was suspended by Twitter after he shared a peer-reviewed study that found lower semen levels in men who received Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

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National Health Incident Declared in UK: Polio Resurfaces

For the first time in decades, public health officials in the U.K. are declaring a national health incident after routine surveillance of north and east London’s wastewater revealed evidence of community poliovirus transmission.

“Investigations are underway after several closely related viruses were found in sewage samples taken between February and May,” the U.K. Health Security Agency said in a press release. “The virus has continued to evolve and is now classified as a ‘vaccine-derived’ poliovirus type 2 (VDPV2), which on rare occasions can cause serious illness, such as paralysis, in people who are not fully vaccinated.”

The situation has been declared a national health incident in the country; but so far, no cases of the disease or related paralysis have been reported.

“The detection of a VDPV2 suggests it is likely there has been some spread between closely linked individuals in North and East London and that they are now shedding the type 2 poliovirus strain in their feces,” the press release read. “The virus has only been detected in sewage samples and no associated cases of paralysis have been reported — but investigations will aim to establish if any community transmission is occurring.”

According to The Guardian, tests on U.K. sewage naturally pick up a handful of unrelated polioviruses each year. Often these come from people who have taken an oral polio vaccine in another country who then travel to the U.K. After taking the oral vaccine, the travelers can shed the weakened live virus used in the vaccine through their feces for several weeks.

But the London samples detected in February raised the alarm because they were related and contained mutations suggesting the virus was evolving, spreading from person to person.

So far, reports of the discovery allude that a single person returning to the U.K. after having the oral polio vaccine may be spreading it locally. While it is unclear how much the virus has spread, it may be confined to a single household.

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Former FDA Commish: Expect A ‘Slow Rollout’ of COVID-19 Vaccine for Small Children

Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, doesn’t expect a rushed agency rollout of the new COVID-19 vaccine for children under 5.

“I think it’s going to be a little bit more of a slow rollout, relative to what we’ve seen in past rollouts with the other age groups,” Gottlieb said on Sunday, while serving as a guest on CBS’s “Face The Nation” program. 

One reason for a modest rollout, from Gottlieb’s perspective: Unlike the vaccine rollouts with adults, some children under age 3 cannot be vaccinated at mass-distribution sites.

“There are going to be pharmacies that are vaccinating children. CVS is going to move it into their pharmacies, but they’re only moving in to the pharmacies with advanced care providers with their MinuteClinics,” said Gottlieb.

He added, “Maybe around children’s hospitals, you’ll see some clinics stood up; but most people are probably going to get vaccinated in their pediatrician’s offices. And it’s going to take a little bit more time to get the vaccine into those local settings because it’s more difficult to vaccinate a child who is very young.

“You need people who are specially trained to do that, and so you want the settings to be appropriate.”

During the CBS interview, Gottlieb noted surveys suggesting that approximately 20% of parents with children under age 5 planned to vaccinate their children. However, the actual percentage could end up lower.

“As prevalence declines going into the summer, a lot of parents may choose to take a wait-and-see attitude and reconsider this in the fall. I think uptick will be pretty slow,” Gottlieb said.

On the Newsmax Sunday program “Wake Up America,” Dr. Peter McCullough, the chief medical adviser to the Truth For Health Foundation, said he didn’t see the necessity in a COVID-19 vaccine for infants and small children.

He also didn’t understand the government’s supposed haste in touting an “experimental” vaccine, given how the vast majority of young children have proven to be resilient against the coronavirus.

“I think it was a mistake for the FDA to approve it,” McCullough told Newsmax. “And clearly the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommendation probably won’t be followed by a lot of the parents.”

McCullough then said: “Children have a very mild syndrome. It’s not like our senior citizens, who are at risk,” while adding the coronavirus is “easily managed” by children, especially those who get “an early start on treatment.”

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COVID Vaccine Rollout for Infants Near After CDC Panel Vote

A panel of advisers to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday voted to recommend COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as six months, making it likely a nationwide rollout can start next week.

The 12-0 vote in favor of the move needs to be signed off by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky for the U.S. government to start rolling out the vaccines for children aged 5 and under.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized Moderna Inc’s shot for children aged six months to 5 years, and Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine for children aged six months to 4 years. Pfizer’s vaccine is already authorized for children over the age of 5.

“This infection kills children and we have an opportunity to prevent that,” Beth Bell, one of the doctors on the panel, said following the vote. “Here is an opportunity to prevent a known risk.”

President Joe Biden’s administration plans to roll out the vaccines to the under-5 age groups as early as next week.

“We will begin shipping millions of vaccine doses for kids to thousands of locations parents know and trust – including pediatricians’ offices, children’s hospitals, and pharmacies,” Biden said in a statement on Friday.

“As doses are delivered, parents will be able to start scheduling vaccinations for their youngest kids as early as next week, with appointments ramping up over the coming days and weeks.”

While many parents in the United States are eager to vaccinate their children, it is unclear how strong demand will be for the shots. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was authorized for children aged 5 to 11 in October, but only about 29% of that group is so far fully vaccinated, federal data shows.

CVS Health Corp plans to provide vaccines to children aged 18 months and older while Rite Aid Corp and Walmart Inc plan to offer these shots for kids who are at least 3 years old. Infants are traditionally vaccinated at a doctor’s office.

Public health officials have been pushing for childhood vaccinations ahead of the new school year as they hope shots for the age group will help prevent hospitalizations and deaths if COVID-19 cases rise again.

COVID-19 is generally more mild in children. Still, since March 2020 it has been the fifth leading cause of deaths in children aged 1-4 and the fourth leading cause of death in children younger than one, according to the CDC.

The CDC advisers will meet again next week to consider whether to back use of the Moderna vaccine for children and adolescents aged 6-17. There has been some concern about the rate of rare cases of heart inflammation in teenage boys and young men from the Moderna vaccine, and the advisers are expected to consider that data.

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US Regulators Authorize COVID-19 Vaccines for Children as Young as 6 Months of Age

U.S. regulators on June 17 authorized two COVID-19 vaccines for young children.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency authorization for the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as 6 months old.

Previously, only children 5 and up could get the Pfizer vaccine, and only people 18 and older could get Moderna’s jab.

The FDA’s move came two days after its vaccine advisory panel unanimously voted to recommend regulators grant emergency authorization for the shots.

Authorization has a lower evidentiary bar than approval, and is only possible because U.S. authorities have maintained a COVID-19 emergency designation despite cases, hospitalizations, and deaths linked to the disease plunging since the metrics hit fresh peaks in January.

Estimates from clinical trials the companies ran pegged the efficacy of Moderna’s vaccine against infection at 50.6 percent for children 6 months through 23 months of age and 36.8 percent for children aged 2 to 5, and the efficacy of Pfizer’s vaccine was estimated at 80.3 percent across the age groups.

For young children, the Moderna vaccine efficacy estimates were based on just 490 children and the Pfizer efficacy estimates were based on just 220 children.

The FDA said in its new statement that Pfizer’s estimate “was determined not to be reliable due to the low number of COVID-19 cases that occurred in study participants.”

Epoch Times Photo
Vials of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine on a table in a vaccination clinic in San Rafael, Calif., on April 6, 2022. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

No estimates were possible for protection against severe illness—which is the primary reason officials say to get vaccinated because the protection has waned considerably as new virus variants emerge—because of the low numbers of severe cases among vaccinated and unvaccinated volunteers.

“Many parents, caregivers and clinicians have been waiting for a vaccine for younger children and this action will help protect those down to 6 months of age. As we have seen with older age groups, we expect that the vaccines for younger children will provide protection from the most severe outcomes of COVID-19, such as hospitalization and death,” FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said in a statement.

“As with all vaccines for any population, when authorizing COVID-19 vaccines intended for pediatric age groups, the FDA ensures that our evaluation and analysis of the data is rigorous and thorough,” added Dr. Peter Marks, a top official at the agency.

Some outside experts have questioned the data from the trials.

“From an efficacy standpoint, it makes absolutely no sense to approve these products,” Brian Hooker, chief scientific officer for Children’s Health Defense, told The Epoch Times before the authorization.

Others urged the FDA to grant the authorization requests, asserting the data indicated sufficient protection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is meeting with its vaccine advisory panel on Friday and Saturday to discuss the data. The panel will decide whether to advise the CDC to say young kids should, or may, get the vaccines. The panel could also recommend the vaccines should only be administered to kids with serious health problems, like diabetes.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky then makes the final decision.

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Andrew Giuliani Blocked From In-Person Debate Over COVID Shot

New York gubernatorial candidate Andrew Giuliani is not participating in person at Monday night’s Republican debate, choosing to participate remotely after he was told he won’t be allowed to attend since he has chosen to remain unvaccinated against the coronavirus.

“I’m obviously seeing consequences in what I believe is my informed decision on this,” Giuliani said in a news conference Sunday outside CBS headquarters in Manhattan, The New York Times reports.

He added that if he is elected as governor, he will “throw all of these mandates in the dustbin of history.”

The first of the party’s debates is being held on WCBS-TV, which has a company policy that will not allow Giuliani, who says he has “natural immunity” to COVID-19, into the station without proof of his vaccination status.

“I chose very clearly that I was not going to get the shot,” Giuliani, the 36-year-old son of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, said in his news conference. He said he made his decision after he “looked at the data” on the vaccinations.

“I don’t think that’s something that even someone who has chosen to get the shot should have to do, from a constitutional standpoint,” he said.

Giuliani, before his news conference, released a letter he wrote to WCBS, in which he argued that the company’s policy was “arbitrary” and that it “serves to discriminate against a political candidate and their access to equal opportunity and religious liberty.”

However, WCBS responded that its broadcast center’s policy, which requires all visitors to be vaccinated, dates back to last year after having been developed “in consultation with health care experts, government officials and the many unions representing our employees.”

The station said that any candidate who has not been vaccinated is welcome to participate in the debate remotely.

The debate will include candidates Rep. Lee M. Zeldin, former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, and corporate turnaround expert Harry Wilson.

Giuliani offered to be tested to prove that he’s not infected.

Zeldin, in a tweet Sunday, called the station’s remote option a “nonstarter” and said the “reason to have him [Giuliani] virtual is ridiculous.”

In another post, Zeldin insisted that “no COVID vaccine mandate at all should exist in any way, shape, or form on anyone.”

Astorino also spoke out, saying that “all four candidates should be onstage,” and argued that “discriminatory and unscientific vaccine mandates” would not prevent the transmission of COVID.

Meanwhile, Giuliani has said that the candidates should be debating almost every day before the June 28 primary. He has also continued to argue against mandates for medical workers and others.

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