The reluctance of sailors and their spouses to get immunized against COVID is a threat to us all.

Scroll through the local spouse page and you will find threads dedicated to discussing COVID-19 and the vaccine created to immunize us against this lethal virus. What you won’t find is discussions of or references to evidenced-based, peer-reviewed literature. I applaud the admins and moderators who refute fake news, however it is insufficient.

President Biden has opted not to mandate the COVID vaccine, rather he has given the Department of Defense autonomy in its policy-making. Elected officials such as Rep. Jimmy Panetta D-Calif., have urged the president to mandate the vaccine for service members, stating that unvaccinated service members are “a critical threat to our national security and public health.”

The “spreadability” of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is debated, but researchers have determined that its “R naught” — a number that represents, on average, the number of people to whom a single infected person can be expected to transmit the disease — is somewhere between 1.4 and 3.5. That means each person infected with COVID-19 will infect at a minimum one other person, and possibly three or four.

Consider this scenario: An unvaccinated submariner contracts the virus and exposes the crew. Given their unique proximity to one another, infectivity rates are likely higher in this population. This infected submariner has now exposed everyone in their division, five of whom are not immunized and one of whom is immunized but unaware they did not develop antibodies after receiving the vaccine and therefore do not possess immunity.

Two of the six submariners become infected, one of whom is symptomatic and has already exposed their spouse and five children, all of whom are now positive. The other infected submariner is asymptomatic and unknowingly infects their partner and three roommates, all of whom who are all submariners on different boats. You see how this becomes a threat to public health?

Let’s circle back to that one submariner who was vaccinated but did not know they did not develop antibodies and are therefore not immune. They were exposed and became infected with COVID-19. They exposed their spouse and 3-year-old daughter, who then became ill.

Children have mild cases, so not a major ordeal, right? What you don’t know is this child was born with a congenital heart defect, had heart failure the first six months of her life and underwent open heart surgery as an infant. Her lungs are weak, and when she gets a cold, it quickly turns into pneumonia. She becomes critically ill because one service member, like so many others, refused to get an FDA-approved vaccine.

Thankfully, this did not happen to my family, but it could because the hypothetical child in this scenario is my daughter. My spouse and I are both vaccinated, but what if the antibodies aren’t enough and we contract a mild case and spread it to our daughter?

I work in health care, but I am more concerned that my spouse will contract the virus from an unvaccinated coworker.

I urge you to be a consumer of peer-reviewed, evidenced-based literature. Recognize fake news and refute it.

If you have refused the vaccine, would you have a different opinion on the vaccine if you had a child who was high risk?

Meagan L. Guise is a primary care nurse practitioner and the wife of a Navy submarine officer.

Editor’s note: This is an op-ed and, as such, the opinions expressed are those of the author alone. If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please contact Navy Times Editor Kent Miller, kmiller@militarytimes.com.

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