Former Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell is out to overturn the Pentagon’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, suing the U.S. Defense Department on behalf of service members who say the requirement violates their civil rights.
The mandate, for all military personnel, makes service members use a product that was rushed to market, more than a dozen of them said in a lawsuit filed on Wednesday by Powell’s Dallas-based nonprofit group Defending the Republic.
“Soldiers are not property of the government,” Powell said in an email. “We seek to protect their individual rights to decide what’s best for their own lives and health in the face of this dangerous, experimental, and unnecessary ‘vaccine.’”
Medical evidence has shown that vaccines are safe and effective at both curbing the spread of the deadly coronavirus and sharply decreasing the risk of hospitalization for those rare vaccinated people who do contract the disease.
One of the distinctive features of Wednesday’s lawsuit, filed in federal court in Pensacola, Florida, is its contention that the Pentagon’s vaccine mandate isn’t even necessary because the military has suffered “minimal hospitalization and mortality rates” from COVID-19. The plaintiffs say that between January 2020 and Sept. 15 a total of 238,120 service members tested positive for the disease, resulting in 2,175 hospitalizations (less than 1%) and 46 deaths (less than 0.02%).
Targeting FDA Approval
In addition, the service members, from states across the U.S. including Alaska and Florida, are asking for an emergency court order not only blocking implementation of the Defense Department mandate but also undoing the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE vaccine.
Cesar Santiago, a spokesman for the Defense Department, declined to comment on pending litigation. Jeremy Kahn, a spokesman for the FDA, didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s Aug. 24 requirement is invalid because it wasn’t vetted by mandatory public comment and Congress never granted such authority to the military in the first place, according to the suit. The Pentagon issued the rule a day after the FDA approved the vaccine, supplementing an earlier emergency use authorization. The service members accuse the FDA of rushing that approval to enable federal mandates.
Biden in July required that all federal employees receive a Covid-19 vaccine or submit to weekly testing to slow the virus’s highly contagious delta variant, which has helped push U.S. fatalities past 700,000 in less than two years. Earlier lawsuits by federal employees including service members, as well as workers challenging state and local mandates, have been filed.
The case is John Doe v. Lloyd Austin, 21-cv-01211, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida (Pensacola).
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