McCracken: The high price of vaccine freedom

Lisa McCracken
Lisa McCracken

Guest writer Lisa McCracken served eight years in the U.S. Navy, where she managed the complex logistics required to maintain top readiness and safety status for both fixed- and rotary-wing air squadrons. Her administrative skills as a data analyst were underscored by service commendations and duty evaluations. A political moderate, she ran unsuccessfully for McMinnville City Council in 2020. Surviving cancer whetted her interest in health issues.

I like numbers.

At a time when it seems as if nearly every question is answered with a subjectivity of dubious veracity, I find the reliability of numbers comforting.

Numbers are dispassionate. Numbers are honest. Numbers are neither Republican nor Democrat.

Numbers do not lie. They simply are. You either have the correct answer or you don’t.

Numbers are not subjective. You can disagree with a correct number until the cows come home, but when they finally do at the end of the day, you’re still wrong.

Numbers do not care what you or I believe. They do not care what you or I feel. And they don’t give a whit about petty politics.

I had to be comfortable with numbers during my service in the U.S. Navy. Responsible for choreographing the enormously complex logistics of maintaining an air squadron’s readiness for war, I knew I had only one chance to get it right.

But I knew I could rely on those numbers. I knew that, as long as I culled and collated correct data, I could perform my duties correctly. The numbers, after all, could not and would not lie.

So let’s talk some numbers — military numbers — that affect all of us.

In the first few days of boot camp, service members receive quite a series of mandatory vaccines.

They are vaccinated for the highly contagious adenovirus, Types 4 and 7, at a cost of $150 per dose. For influenza at $70 per dose and measles, mumps and rubella at $87 per dose. For crippling, potentially deadly polio at $200 per dose and equally threatening tetanus and diphtheria at $60 per dose.

Vaccines for bacterial meningitis and meningococcal disease run $128 per dose, and for chicken pox, which is debilitating and potentially deadly for adults, $170 per dose. Then there is the $200 “peanut butter injection,” trademarked as Bicillin, a hardcore antibiotic designed to combat a range of diseases, including syphilis.

I missed the chicken pox vaccination when I enlisted in the Navy in 1999. But after being exposed to a deadly strain of strep, which claimed the life of a fellow recruit in his first month of training, I received two doses of Bicillin.

In recent times, service members have also been receiving COVID-19 vaccine running $120 per dose. Altogether, taxpayers have been footing the bill for roughly $1,200 worth of vaccines, collectively aimed at preventing deadly or crippling diseases.

Depending on risk, occupation and area of responsibility, service members might also be vaccinated, at additional cost, for anthrax, cholera, haemophilus influenzae Type B, Japanese encephalitis, pneumococcal disease, rabies, smallpox, typhoid fever and/or yellow fever.

But on Jan. 11, the Pentagon officially rescinded the requirement for stateside troops stationed to be vaccinated for COVID-19, and gave a measure of discretion for troops being deployed abroad. What does this mean for the health of the U.S. military?

Will recruits and fleet service members refuse other mandatory vaccines in the future? Will opting out affect their state of readiness? If our enemies become aware of military members refusing vaccines, will this render our troops vulnerable?

And what about the cost to the taxpayers for service-connected disability when members are able to bully their way out of other mandatory vaccines?

Measles and mumps can cause sterility, and if suffered during military service, base compensation runs upward of $1,000 per month for life. That’s not to mention a roughly $200 a month add-on for what the military calls “special monthly compensation due to loss of a reproductive organ.”

If a service member dies from those or other diseases while on active duty, including COVID-19, his or her dependents will receive death benefits that include a monthly pension, medical care for children and college education for all dependents. All of this falls on the taxpayer, even though it could generally be prevented through vaccination at a tiny, tiny fraction of the cost.

What if a service member is allowed to opt out of vaccination for mumps? Potential consequences include: inflammation of the testicles (orchitis); decrease in testicular size (testicular atrophy); inflammation of the ovaries (oophoritis); inflammation of the breasts (mastitis); inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis); inflammation of the brain (encephalitis); inflammation of the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord (meningitis); and deafness.

Even a moderate case of chronic pancreatitis carries a 30 percent disability rating, entitling a dependent spouse to $568.05 a month or $6,816.60 a year for the next 50 years, totaling $340,830 in all.

Let’s say 200 service members opted out of MMR vaccination and suffered like consequences. The price tag would top $68 million.

We already know service members can now opt out of COVID-19 vaccination. Say even a couple of thousand of them come down with debilitating cases of COVID as a result — a really conservative estimate.

Do the math. The costs could prove staggering.

We all know freedom has a price.

But the cost of choosing to decline a simple $120 vaccination is immense. And it’s a cost borne not just by those who choose to shun it, but by all U.S. taxpayers — even those who made the responsible choice to receive the vaccine themselves.

The numbers do not lie.


Web Design and Web Development by Buildable