To End Vaccine Hesitancy, Rely on America’s Most Reliable

David W. Callaway

In America, veterans hold the key to ending the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 vaccine is now available to virtually everyone who wants it, though to date just 36% of the American public is fully vaccinated. Even with new variants of the disease on the rise, recent polling suggests that up to one quarter of society may choose not to be vaccinated.  

COVID continues to be a security threat to the country: people are dying, people are out of work, and kids are not getting educated. The only way to end that threat is to become a nation vaccinated. To reach herd immunity, 75 to 85% of Americans must be vaccinated. The only way to return to normal is to ensure each and every one of us who can be vaccinated is vaccinated.  

Safety and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Science has proven that COVID vaccinations are safe and they save lives. To date, more than 270 million vaccinations have been administered in the U.S. And while more than 582,000 unvaccinated Americans have died from COVID-19, not a single person has died of COVID after being vaccinated. Zero. 

Vaccines are ensuring American’s emotional wellbeing, too. As of May 13, vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks in public—outdoors or indoors—or maintain social distance. Vaccinated persons may travel again, domestically or internationally. Fully vaccinated people can hug their mothers again, start having coffee with their grandfathers again, and get back to serving their community again—without a mask or an invisible six-foot barrier. Being vaccinated means the right to return to a more normal existence, both for the person vaccinated and for their community.  

Trusted Veterans Key to Herd Immunity

To serve those communities, including reaching those who are vaccine hesitant and those who live in hard-to-reach areas, America has begun calling on veterans. Veterans, after all, are the first to fight for this country’s rights and for freedom; they are the men and women to lead the charge. Veterans, it turns out, may be the key to herd immunity.  

That’s because according to the Pew Research Center, Americans trust the military and veteran communities more than politicians, CEOs, and even scientists. They are “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” They are your neighbors. They are people who took an oath to serve the country, then returned to their hometowns, where they are finding ways to serve again. That means Americans put their trust in veterans to do the right thing, including getting themselves vaccinated so that they can safely serve others.  

Volunteers working the Nevada mobile vaccination site.

Veterans are also uniquely qualified to meet the logistical challenge of widespread vaccine distribution. Given their extensive experience managing the logistics of moving everything from MREs to entire armies, veterans are adept at handling the logistics of running mass vaccination sites and one-on-one mobile vaccination units.  

That’s why disaster relief nonprofit Team Rubicon and six other veteran organizations launched the Veterans Coalition for Vaccination and are together calling on all veterans to first get vaccinated themselves, then to help end vaccine hesitancy, and finally to help get the vaccine into hard-to-reach arms.  

Veterans Get Vaccine to the People, from Alabama to Alaska

Already, more than 1,790 veterans have answered the call. Together, they have set up vaccination sites in more than 95 areas across the country. During an AAPI festival in Anchorage, Team Rubicon and members of the VCV launched a series of pop-up clinics at local shopping centers, with information in multiple languages, that were able to reach a larger set of the community, including indigenous peoples, than typical.

In St. Louis, veterans teamed up with medical personnel and fire department staff and went door-to-door to vaccinate homebound residents in more than 130 homes. And, with a mobile vaccination unit that traveled Nevada, these veteran volunteers have helped get nearly 18,000 people vaccinated, including members of the Washtoe, Fort Mojave, and Paiute Tribes.

The goals of this veteran-led vaccination campaign are simple: build confidence in the science of the vaccines, ensure all veterans have access to the vaccine, and use veterans to help vaccinate all Americans, no matter who they are or where they live.  

Engaging veterans in the war on COVID-19 means everyone wins: veterans who get to serve their country, civilians who receive life-saving vaccines and even the American economy and way of life.

Watch Team Rubicon and the Veterans Coalition for Vaccination answer questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

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