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Military Personnel May Be Required to Take the COVID-19 Vaccine

On Monday, August 9, 2021, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made a surprising announcement. He is considering mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for military members. Across the nation, lawyers’ switchboards lit up. Concerned service members wonder if they can refuse the vaccine, and others question whether they should retire. Many are angry, but these concerns did not appear to come from younger vets. Senior and mid-level military members seem to be the most worried.

Military members are concerned because vaccines are still awaiting FDA approval. Across the nation, the vaccines have created controversy. Skeptics argue that it is still too early to inject unapproved chemicals, and they want more information before taking the vaccine. "They want more data before they put a chemical in their body," Military Defense Attorney Joseph Owens told CNN.

However, many believe that FDA approval is quickly approaching.If the vaccine mandate goes through, it could go into effect as early as mid-September. A draft warning order alerted soldiers that, “Given uncertainty with regard to potential FDA approval date, [the date of mandatory vaccination] could occur with less than 7 days’ notice." If vaccines are required, those who refuse to take them could face potential disciplinary action and possible discharge.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby attempted to assuage fears of disciplinary action. According to him, the military will use other tools such as education to help encourage participation from workers. There may also be exceptions for those with certain medical conditions or religious beliefs.

Potential Legal Concerns

From a legal perspective, there are many ways to view this potential mandate. Some look at an anthrax vaccine the military attempted to enforce in 1998. Legal pushback caused this requirement to be repealed. Due to the rushed nature of COIVD-19 vaccinations, procedural mistakes could cause the mandate to fall apart. The military must be extra careful when testing, administering, or authorizing the vaccine.

However, the military already requires vaccines of its members, and the COVID-19 serum could easily be included in that list. Currently, anyone taking basic training must have proof of at least eight different vaccinations. Depending on your job in the military and where you are based, you could be required to have up to 17 different vaccinations, including an anthrax vaccine.

Another argument in favor of vaccine mandates is the very nature of military service. As an active service member, you are expected to act in the best interests of the military and the nation. Clever legal language could dictate that vaccination falls in line with your expected duties.

At Owens & Kurz, LLC, we will closely monitor this situation as it develops. If we believe that service members are being mistreated, we are prepared to act. For help protecting your rights as an active service member, call our office at (888) 570-4612 or contact us online.