Republicans slammed the Biden administration's decision to offer COVID-19 vaccination to detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, including alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, leading to the Pentagon to pause the plan Saturday.
"It is inexcusable and un-American that President Biden is choosing to prioritize vaccinations for convicted terrorists in Gitmo over vulnerable American seniors or veterans," Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., tweeted.
The Pentagon said Saturday it was putting on hold a plan to give COVID vaccines to terror detainees at Guantanamo, following an outcry as the United States struggles to deliver jabs to frontline workers and vulnerable elderly Americans.
"No Guantanamo detainees have been vaccinated," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby tweeted. "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."
The Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba houses detainees in the US "war on terror."
The Department of Defense told U.S. media earlier in the week it would offer vaccines to its detainees and prisoners, to be administered "on a voluntary basis."
Backlash came from Republican lawmakers including the party's top congressman, Kevin McCarthy.
"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," he said on Twitter.
The United States has been the world's hardest-hit country by the coronavirus pandemic, in absolute terms, with 436,000 deaths and nearly 26 million cases.
Forty detainees remain at the U.S. military prison.
"Nothing says #unity like letting the 9/11 mastermind & Gitmo detainees skip in front of millions of Americans for the COVID #vaccine," Rep. Dan Bishop, R-N.C., tweeted Friday.
"Joe Biden: making sure terrorists get vaccinated since 2021," added Steve Guest, communications adviser for Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
The New York Times says a lack of vaccinations has been an obstacle to resuming war crime hearings at the base's Camp Justice compound.
Information from Agence France Press was used in this report.
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