On Saturday, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) said he’d been contacted by members of the U.S. military who said they would leave military service if forced to take COVID-19 coronavirus vaccines. Massie’s comment came after a leaked Army document said vaccines could be mandatory this September.
Massie tweeted, “I’ve been contacted by members of our voluntary military who say they will quit if the COVID vaccine is mandated. I introduced HR 3860 to prohibit any mandatory requirement that a member of the Armed Forces receive a vaccination against COVID-19. It now has 24 sponsors.”
Massie’s tweet came after a report last week that said the Army had ordered its commands to prepare to administer mandatory vaccinations by September. The Army has not confirmed the order to prepare for mandatory vaccinations has been given, but Army spokesperson Maj. Jackie Wren told Army Times. “If we are directed by DoD to change our posture, we are prepared to do so.”
At the moment, service members throughout the U.S. military branches are not required to take the available COVID-19 vaccines. All of the vaccines are currently only available for use through an emergency use authorization (EUA) granted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA has not granted full approval to any of the vaccines at this time.
In June, Massie introduced legislation HR3860 that would outright ban any mandatory vaccinations for U.S. military members. Thus far, that legislation has garnered 23 Republican House co-sponsors.
Massie also tweeted a link to a Pentagon-backed study that described 23 instances in which U.S. military physicians observed that patients had developed myocarditis, a form of heart inflammation, within four days of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine dose. The 23 cases were found among a study of 436,000 male military members who have received two doses of mRNA-based vaccine shots.
Last week the FDA added a warning about myocarditis and pericarditis, another form of heart inflammation, to the drug labels for the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, CNBC reported.
Massie’s tweet about troops quitting from the military raised some questions as to whether troops can simply exit the service at a time of their choosing.
One Twitter user responded, “1) service members are fully vaccinated at all times 2) they can’t ‘quit.’ Face it. You’re lying. No service members contacted you because they know they can’t quit & if their superior officer tells them to get vaccinated, they raise their sleeve.”
Another Twitter user tweeted, “Dude. Soldiers can’t just ‘quit’. You’re a sitting member of Congress and you don’t understand how the military works??”
Massie responded to criticisms about the precedent for U.S. troops “quitting” military service when faced with mandatory vaccinations, by noting instances in which military service members who were able to leave the military without facing a dishonorable discharge or court-martial after refusing the Anthrax vaccine.
Massie linked to several articles documenting service members leaving over mandatory Anthrax vaccines, including a 2000 Chicago Tribune article on the case of U.S. Air Force Cpt. Clifton Volpe, who was allowed to resign from the service under honorable conditions after an eight-month-long legal battle in which he faced a discharge under less-than-honorable conditions.
Massie tweeted, “My legislation to prevent members of the military from being forced to take this novel vaccine (for which we are finding new adverse reactions every month) would prevent any discharges due to the vaccine — honorable, dishonorable, general, medical, or otherwise. The social media attention paid to HR3860 this independence day weekend will no doubt help me garner more cosponsors in support of it!”
In June, Military Times reported many U.S. troops faced punishments ranging from nonjudicial punishment, lost rank and pay, to career-ending dishonorable discharges and time in a military brig for refusing the vaccines. Some veterans have been able to have their service records corrected in the last 20 years, but many cases remain pending before military record corrections boards. A 2004 court injunction halted the military’s mandatory Anthrax vaccination program and declared the previous six years of vaccine administration to be illegal, however many judges refused to grant veterans’ requests for appeals that cited the 2004 injunction.
President Joe Biden has not decided whether he will mandate vaccines for the military once there is FDA approval. In an April interview, Biden said, “I don’t know, I’m going to leave that to the military,” before adding, “I’m not saying I won’t. I think you’re going to see more and more of them getting it. I think it is a tough call as to whether or not they should be required to have to get it in the military.”