COVID-19 vaccine benefits outweigh risks, military health leaders say

COVID-19 Vaccines: Benefits Still Outweigh the Risks
Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment, were vaccinated on May 7, 2021, while in Bulgaria during exercise Swift Response. Photo credit Army Maj. Robert Fellingham

Only a small fraction of people in the military community have experienced breakthrough infections after receiving a COVID-19 vaccination - and none of them have died, according to Defense Health Agency Director Army Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Ronald Place.

Place revealed new data about breakthrough infections among people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 at a July 20 virtual town hall for DHA employees.

Place explained that the evidence shows how effective the vaccine has been and he encouraged all service members and others to get fully vaccinated.

"The fact of the matter is the efficacy is very good," Place said. "From a safety perspective, for those of us who are [fully] vaccinated, it is exceptionally uncommon for us to need hospitalization."

More than 2 million people in the Military Health System have received full COVID-19 vaccinations, Place said. Of that number, about 1,600 people have been infected with the novel coronavirus.

"How many of those have had to be hospitalized? Less than 50," he told nearly 2,000 employee town hall participants. "There have been no deaths among that hospitalized group."

Yet despite strong evidence of the vaccine's safety and efficacy, significant portions of the military and civilian populations remain hesitant to get the shot.

For those who remain skeptical, Place encouraged them to: "Have a true, meaningful conversation with somebody you trust or some buddies that you trust."

He suggested also talking to "your health care team, those family members that you trust and other members of the DHA that you may trust."

Place also shared his thoughts on the potential impact the unvaccinated population can have on their broader community.

"I'm just concerned that there are a number of us who, for whatever reason, believe the best course of action is to not be vaccinated."