Former Army lawyer Greg T. Rinckey received a flood of calls after President Joe Biden requested that the Pentagon consider adding the COVID-19 vaccination to the military’s mandatory shots.
Tully Rinckey’s firm has received hundreds of requests from soldiers, marines, and sailors to learn their rights and determine if they can take legal action if they are ordered to inoculate for the coronavirus.
Many U.S. troops reached out to us, saying that they don’t want untested vaccines, don’t believe the government has safe vaccines, and that they don’t trust them. Rinckey asked, “What are my rights?”
Their rights are generally limited as vaccines are often considered essential for the military’s ability to fulfill its missions. This is because service members often live, eat and sleep in close quarters.
Lloyd Austin, Defense Secretary, has stated that he is working quickly to make COVID-19 mandatory for military personnel. He is also expected to ask Biden not to waive a federal law that required individuals to be allowed to choose if the vaccine was not fully licensed. Biden also ordered that federal employees be vaccinated. Federal workers will have to undergo frequent testing and face travel restrictions.
Lawyers believe the waiver will give the military a stronger legal foundation so it can avoid the court battles that it had to face when it required the anthrax vaccine for troops during the 1990s, when it wasn’t fully approved by federal Food and Drug administration.
Some service personnel are distrustful not only because of public sentiments about COVID-19 vaccines that were quickly approved for emergency use but also because of the anthrax program’s problems.
Numerous troops refused to receive the vaccine. Some were discharged. Others were disciplined. Others were disciplined or court martialed.
A federal judge ruled in favor of servicemen who had filed a lawsuit claiming that the military couldn’t administer a vaccine not fully licensed without their consent. The program was stopped by the judge.
After the FDA approved it in 2004, the Pentagon started it again. However, the judge stopped it once more after deciding that the FDA hadn’t followed proper procedures.
The FDA eventually approved the vaccine and the program was reinstated for troops stationed in high-risk areas.
According to military experts, the legal fights over the anthrax vaccine may be the reason why the Biden administration is treading carefully. The government relied on encouraging troops to fight, rather than mandating them. However, coronavirus cases have been on the rise in the military with the more contagious Delta variant.
If the military makes vaccines mandatory for service members, they will require them to have them unless they are allowed to appeal to exemptions for religious, medical, or other reasons.
According to the Pentagon more than 1,000,000 service members have been fully vaccinated and over 237,000 have received at least one shot. There are approximately 2 million Guard, Reserve, and active-duty troops.
Many view the COVID-19 vaccination as necessary to prevent another major outbreak such as the one that struck the USS Theodore Roosevelt last year. It resulted in over 1,000 cases of illness and one death.
A soldier on active duty in the Army said that he would be happy to receive the vaccine as part of the mandatory shots for military personnel. Unauthorized to speak to media, the soldier asked to remain anonymous because he worried that unvaccinated service personnel may abuse the honor system by going to work wearing a mask.
Recently, he was in a car with other people for work. He didn’t feel able to ask everyone if they were vaccinated as it has become so political. To prevent infection, commanders struggled to distinguish vaccinated from unvaccinated recruits in the early parts of basic training across all services.
According to veterans and active-duty troops, vaccinated personnel would be unable to accommodate unvaccinated troops. This would result in a reduction in the number of troops eligible for deployment.
Former Air Force Staff Sergeant said, “The military travels all over the globe to be able best serve the U.S.” Tes Sabine is a radiology technician at an emergency room in New York. “We need to have healthy personnel in the military to accomplish missions. If the COVID-19 vaccination achieves that, it’s a very good thing.”
Dr. Shannon Stacy, a doctor at a Los Angeles hospital, agrees.
She said that she was an emergency medicine doctor and a former flight surgeon in a Marine heavy helicopter squadron. COVID-19 can take a fully-trained unit from mission ready status to non-deployable status within days.
Stacy said that scheduling shots around trainings will be the biggest problem. She left the Navy in 2011, and she did pre-deployment group immunizations.
Army Col. Arnold Strong, who resigned from the military in 2017, stated that he believes it is not something the U.S. military can overcome. Troops operating in remote areas of the Earth have direct access to medical personnel. He believes that this time, given the fact that most people sign up for orders to follow them, it will not be any different.
He said that he believes the majority of service personnel will line up to get vaccinated once it becomes a Department of Defense policy.
Strong lost five of his friends to the virus, three being veterans.
His dream is for the military to be an example for others.
He said, “I would like people to see the military stand up and say, “Yes, let’s get shots in arm,” it will set a precedent for the rest of the country.” “But I don’t know, because I believe we face such strong threats of disinformation being spread daily.”