Brownstone » Brownstone Journal » Military-Aged Males and Booster Shots: Why the Concern

Military-Aged Males and Booster Shots: Why the Concern


I was infected with Omicron the day I returned from one of the few places in the world without Covid – Antarctica. I had mild symptoms akin to a bad cold for two or three days. This is the situation that the vast majority of my fellow, vaccinated service members (I am a 32-year-old male in the Alaska Air National Guard) have found or will find themselves in when they encounter Covid. It is now, for us, essentially a cold or flu.

97% of service members are now what is considered “fully vaccinated.” No doubt, some service members have already received booster shots. On January 13th, John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary said the Department of Defense (DoD) stands by its decision on the vaccine mandate for the military. He also said that they are in the midst of discussions about whether or not the DoD will instate a booster mandate. Whether or not they do, a majority of service members would do well to refuse the shot. 

I have been an advocate of the available Covid vaccines as safe and effective since I began to see early data from trials. But I began to look at the data more closely in May of 2021, following more testimonials about adverse outcomes and the growing number of such reports on VAERS. While the evidence for death and most morbidities caused by vaccinations are unsubstantiated after fine scrutiny and statistical analysis, there were some concerning signs related to myocarditis for young men. 

I had just received my first dose of Pfizer vaccine when I started finding data supporting these adverse outcomes. So, I decided to look even further into things before receiving my second dose. I did not find much convincing evidence for personal risks. But I also did not see any compelling evidence that I would gain much benefit from a second dose as a young healthy adult either – as argued here – especially as the Delta variant began to overtake the United States and breakthrough infections became more common. I began to surmise diminishing public benefit from Covid vaccines and moved into the camp of largely considering them an individual risk mitigation, being excellent at effectively reducing the individual chances of hospitalization and death.

I decided to skip my second dose of the vaccine. I even began to see data supporting the benefits of prolonged spacing between doses – should one receive both shots. But when the FDA approved Pfizer Covid vaccines for normal use, the DoD immediately mandated the vaccines for all service members. At this point I felt comfortable enough about the limited risks and the time I had taken before my second dose. So, I went ahead and received it.

The thing is, I wasn’t quite right about my assessment of the risks. It turns out that several studies have now shown that there is a greater risk of myocarditis for males under 40 after receiving just a second dose of mRNA vaccines than there is from SARS-CoV-2 infection itself. This should be a prominent point of social discourse around the globe! This is particularly true in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold vaccine mandates for healthcare workers on the weak premise that they “avoid transmitting a dangerous virus to their patients.” There are thousands of men under 40 who serve in our healthcare systems, and booster mandates are now being instituted for many of them that will likely be upheld under and predicated on this Supreme Court ruling. 

The military is the quintessential representation of this vulnerable demographic. Approximately two-thirds of the military are males under the age of 40. To even be discussing this mandate is an ethical misstep. Any consideration at all for a booster mandate given the current evidence should be halted. And further investigation into the risks should be undertaken. 

There should, of course, be strong encouragement for military members who may fit a risk profile for SARS-CoV-2 infection to get boosters if they so choose (after consultation with a doctor who closely examines the most up-to-date evidence). But for our leaders to be mandating a vaccine schedule that research shows could do more harm than good is a frightening premise.

And what is the potential good vaccines could do for this age band? Almost none. Most young, healthy, vaccinated military members have a probability so close to zero of having negative outcomes from Covid that there is no feasible reason to consider a booster. Even Dr. Paul Offit, one of the biggest advocates of vaccines, recently advised his 20-something son – an age range about 20% of the military falls into – that he has no need of a Covid booster shot. A military booster mandate would not be in accordance with safe, ethical, evidence-based medicine.

If vaccines helped to stop the spread of Covid – especially as the mild Omicron takes over 98% of all Covid infections in the US – it would be a different story. But they don’t. Again, they are effective at safely protecting high-risk individuals from hospitalizations and death due to Covid. We should reserve these shots for those folks and let the rest of us take back control of our lives, our privacy, and our medical freedom.

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  • Willy Forsyth

    Willy Forsyth, MPH EMT-P, has worked as a Public Health Professional with Humanitarian agencies across Africa and Asia. He is also an Alaska Air National Guard Pararescueman with experience in risk mitigation of complex operations across global settings. He most recently worked as a Field Safety Coordinator and Search and Rescue Lead with the United States Antarctic Program at McMurdo Station.

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