Defense Department pauses plan to offer COVID-19 vaccine to Guantanamo Bay prisoners after GOP criticism

guantanamo bay
In this Wednesday, April 17, 2019 photo reviewed by U.S. military officials, the control tower is seen through the razor wire inside the Camp VI detention facility in Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba.

  • The Department of Defense is pausing a plan to offer COVID-19 vaccines to Guantanamo Bay prisoners.
  • The plan drew criticism from GOP lawmakers who said it prioritized terrorists.
  • Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said the department is reviewing measures to keep troops safe.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Department of Defense is pausing a plan to offer COVID-19 vaccines to detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, made the announcement in a tweet Saturday, saying that no detainees at the prison have been vaccinated.

“We’re pausing the plan to move forward, as we review force protection protocols,” he said. “We remain committed to our obligations to keep our troops safe.”

The plan to offer vaccines to prisoners at Guantanamo was reported by The New York Times on Thursday.

Republican lawmakers criticized the announcement, saying that the plan was prioritizing terrorists over average Americans.

Read more: Vaccine inequity on Capitol Hill: Members of Congress got the shots but essential Hill workers are left waiting

Guantanamo Bay currently has 40 prisoners, according to the Times. One of them is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who has been accused of being the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks.

“President Biden told us he would have a plan to defeat the virus on day 1. He just never told us that it would be to give the vaccine to terrorists before most Americans,” Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the GOP leader in the House, said in a tweet Saturday morning.

McCarthy also tweeted the news that the plan would be paused, saying “Good.”

Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York also criticized the plan in a tweet, calling it “inexcusable” and “un-American.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines encourage vaccinating correctional staff and incarcerated people at the same time to avoid outbreaks. The CDC also highlights the increased risk of becoming ill in a prison facility due to being inside in close quarters.

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