Several members of the military have informed Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky that they are planning to resign if the government mandates Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines for the armed forces.
In response to the objections of servicemen and women, Massie introduced HR 3860. This bill would “prohibit any mandatory requirement that a member of the Armed Forces receive a vaccination against COVID-19,” he wrote on his personal Twitter account. As of press time, HR 3860 has 23 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, all of whom are members of the Republican Party.
Massie’s tweet received a lot of engagement. As of press time, it has over 9,000 likes. It has also spurred a lot of discussion on social media over whether members of the military should be forced to take vaccines. He even received pushback from fellow House Republicans who are in favor of vaccine mandates.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois accused Massie of “pandering.” He argued that people who join the military know what they are signing up for, and that the coronavirus vaccines work.
Former Rep. Denver Riggleman of Virginia tried to argue that getting vaccinated is important for maintaining military readiness.
“Military personnel are mandated to receive many vaccinates. I was jabbed dozens of times,” said Riggleman. “Sick military members affect readiness. Death doesn’t help either.”
Both Kinzinger and Riggleman served in the Air Force.
“NO ONE should be forced or coerced by ANYONE to take the COVID vaccine,” said Massie in a follow-up tweet. “The fact that policy discussions in the U.S. are centered around ‘proof of vaccine’ instead of ‘evidence of immunity’ shows that science and reason have been drummed out by politics, profits and superstition.”
Military to mandate coronavirus vaccines by September
Massie filed HR 3860 in response to a report published by the Army Times that alleged the Army is preparing its commands to administer mandatory COVID-19 vaccines as early as Sept. 1, pending full authorization of the vaccines by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The directive came from an order sent to the Army by Headquarters, Department of the Army, titled “HQDA EXORD 225-21, COVID-19 Steady State Operations.” The Army Times was able to obtain a leaked version of this order.
According to the order: “Commanders will continue COVID-19 vaccination operations and prepare for a directive to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for service members [on or around] 01 September 2021, pending full FDA licensure.”
“Commands will be prepared to provide a backbrief on servicemember vaccination status and way ahead for completion once the vaccine is mandated,” it continued.
“EXORD” is short for “executive order.” This means President Joe Biden himself directed the Department of Defense (DOD) to execute a military command.
“As a matter of policy we do not comment on leaked documents. The vaccines continue to be voluntary,” said Army spokesperson Maj. Jackie Wren. “If we are directed by DOD to change our posture, we are prepared to do so.”
A different defense official told the Army Times that the Pentagon has not put out any kind of guidance to prepare the services for mandatory mass vaccinations. It isn’t even entirely clear when the FDA will give the vaccines full authorization.
Alison Hunt, a spokesperson for the FDA, said the timelines for approving the COVID-19 vaccines vary on a number of factors. But she noted that Pfizer and Moderna have already submitted their applications for full approval. These take up to 60 days to review, in accordance with the FDA’s guidelines for priority applications.
According to Lt. Gen. Ronald Place, director of the Defense Health Agency, at least 70 percent of the Army has already been vaccinated against COVID-19. The Army’s current problem is that demand for vaccines has dropped drastically in recent months. This is a trend seen across all service branches and even among the general public. The people who wanted or were forced to receive vaccines have already done so.
Other services are also considering vaccine mandates. Veterans Affairs is planning to require all staffers to get the vaccine amid supposed concerns about the allegedly more severe Delta variant of the coronavirus. The Navy, which has the highest vaccine acceptance rate among all service branches, wants to close the gap and has already told sailors to expect a mandatory vaccination program in their future.
**By Arsenio Toledo