Army Bases Offering Vaccine Incentives But No Military-Wide Policy For Now

Army Bases Offering Vaccine Incentives But No Military-Wide Policy For Now

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(CNN)At least three Army bases are now offering incentives for soldiers to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, including additional days off, gym access and reduced movement restrictions.

Near Seattle, Joint Base Lewis-McChord announced in a memo obtained by CNN on Thursday that there will be “up to four hour periods each day during which Welfare/Recreation activities and installation services will be accessible only to vaccinated personnel,” including 24-hour gym access. In addition, as units’ vaccination rates rise, the entire unit will get days off, from three days off at 60% vaccination to an additional four days off at 80% vaccination.

The base has a population of 110,000, including active-duty, family members and civilian employees.

    “Soldiers and community members must make the best choice for themselves, and their family and loved ones with regard to volunteering to receive the vaccine,” wrote base commander Lt. Gen. Randy George in the memo, framing the coronavirus as a challenge to military readiness. “However, our focus must remain fixed on increasing readiness and account for the different risks that vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals pose for infection and transmission of COVID-19.”

      Unvaccinated soldiers also will be subject to more stringent movement restrictions, allowing commanders to limit unvaccinated troops to go only as far as Oregon, Washington or Idaho, while vaccinated soldiers face no such limitation.

        Joint Base Lewis-McChord is the latest base to begin offering incentives for troops to receive the vaccine. Fort Bragg, in North Carolina, has been offering some incentives since March, said spokesman Col. Joe Buccino. Incentives include using the gym without a mask and sitting in indoor dining spaces. Though the incentives are not as broad as those at Lewis-McChord, Buccino says they have worked at Fort Bragg.

        “Our opt-in rates are definitely going up,” Buccino told CNN on Thursday.

          Fort Drum, in upstate New York, has offered similar incentives.

          Even so, the Pentagon is not considering an incentive program for the entire military.

          “I think, like the secretary [of defense] said, the best incentive is to know th

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