UPDATE, Jan. 30, 2021: Following publication of this article, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby tweeted that the plan to vaccinate Guantanamo Bay detainees was being paused: “No Guantanamo detainees have been vaccinated. We’re pausing the plan to move forward, as we review force protection protocols. We remain committed to our obligations to keep our troops safe.”
Our original article remains below as published:
The Biden administration will offer coronavirus vaccines to detainees at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba as soon as next week, while millions of Americans have to wait months to receive the vaccine.
Clayton Trivett Jr. — a prosecutor in the case against five prisoners alleged to have conspired in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — told defense lawyers of the decision on Thursday, The New York Times reported.
“An official in the Pentagon has just signed a memo approving the delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine to the detainee population in Guantanamo,” Trivett wrote in a letter to lawyers.
The 40 detainees could receive the first dose of the vaccine “on a voluntary basis” as soon as Monday, according to the prosecutor.
Under Pentagon rules, consent is required to administer a treatment that has not yet received full Food and Drug Administration approval.
Federal prosecutors have reportedly had a hard time moving forward with war crime hearings because of a lack of vaccinations at the base, according to Fox News.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the man suspected to be behind the 9/11 attacks, is one of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, but it is unknown if he will consent to receive the vaccine.
Defense officials with knowledge of the Pentagon’s vaccination decision confirmed the information with Fox News on Thursday.
It is unclear at this time how many people at the base have been infected with COVID-19.
Medical workers and some troops stationed at the base started to receive vaccines on Jan. 8.
“The brutal truth is, it’s going to take months before we can the majority of Americans vaccinated — months,” Biden said.
“In the next few months, masks, not vaccines, are the best defense against COVID-19. Experts say that wearing masks from now just until April would save 50,000 lives that otherwise would pass away if we don’t wear these masks.”
The federal government also plans to purchase an additional 100 million doses of the vaccine each from Moderna and Pfizer, as it ramps up distribution.
Biden’s administration wants to increase the vaccine distribution to at least 10 million doses a week.
“We will both increase the supply in the short-term by more than 15 percent and give our states and local partners more certainty about when deliveries will arrive,” Biden said.
“These two steps are going to increase our prospects of hitting or exceeding, God willing, the ambitious goal of 100 million shots in 100 days.”
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