A reporter pressed White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Tuesday about a Coast Guard rescuer who may face termination over his refusal to comply with the military’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement.
First Class Rescue Swimmer Chad Watson and a team of fellow Coast Guard members rescued dozens of people when Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida in late September, but Watson is among 20,000 members who are at risk of being terminated for refusing to get the vaccine.
“I’m curious, given the threats that we are facing abroad, would the president ever reconsider the vaccination requirement or consider issuing more exemptions?” the reporter asked.
“As you can imagine, the president has the deepest respect for the U.S. Coast Guard. That is something that you would hear from him directly, and the president and the country are grateful for all of the U.S. Coast Guard heroes that have led the effort to save lives in Florida. We have seen that with our very own eyes these past couple of days. I would refer you specifically to the U.S. Coast Guard on this issue of individual questions,” Jean-Pierre said.
“That’s not something that I would comment from here but there, of course, have been multiple vaccination requirements, as you know, in place for quite some time, but again I’m not going to comment from here on an individual case,” she continued.
Watson told “Fox & Friends” Tuesday he has declined to receive the vaccine due to his religion. He argued those in excellent health have very mild symptoms from COVID, and therefore the vaccine is unnecessary for the healthy members.
“It doesn’t change the grounds on why we’re refusing the vaccine in the first place,” Watson said during the panel. “It’s faith-based. We don’t agree with how it was developed, and we don’t agree that it’s also necessary. COVID seems to be very mild symptoms for us that are in excellent health and given our job, we’re required to be in excellent health.”
He filed for a religious exemption against the vaccine but was denied, Fox News reported. He then appealed the decision, the Coast Guard denied his request a second time, the outlet continued.
John Kirby, the White House coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council, told “Fox & Friends” Monday the COVID-19 vaccine mandate is a “valid military requirement,” arguing it is essential to have the mandate in place to keep military members to be in good health.