Troops vow to quit as Pentagon considers mandatory vaccines

By Art Moore

Army Spc. Kailee Soares prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine during a drive to vaccinate Hawaii National Guardsmen assigned to the COVID-19 response in the town of Hanapepe on Hawaii’s Kauai island, Jan. 12, 2021. (U.S. Army photo)

A congressman who introduced a bill that would bar mandatory vaccination says he’s been contacted by military members who say they will quit if the Pentagon requires them to get a COVID shot.

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., was reacting on Twitter to an Army Times report that the Army “has directed commands to prepare to administer mandatory COVID-19 vaccines as early as Sept. 1, pending full Food and Drug Administration licensure.”

On Tuesday, Defense Department Press Secretary John Kirby confirmed the Pentagon will consider mandatory COVID vaccination for personnel if the Food and Drug Administration approves the vaccines.

The vaccines are now under Emergency Use Authorization, with Pfizer’s clinical trial scheduled to be completed by January 2023.

“Should the FDA approve it then I am certain Pentagon leadership will take a look at what our options are going forward, including the potential options of making it mandatory,” he said. “But I’m not going to get too far ahead of process right now.”

Pfizer and BioNTech, as well as Moderna, recently submitted applications for full approval of their vaccines. The FDA is now deciding whether or not to grant “priority review,” which renders a decision within six months.

Kirby said Tuesday that top Pentagon brass are considering the next steps.

“We are a planning organization. I don’t think that should surprise anybody that we’re trying to think about what the implications would be and how we would react to that,” he said.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, will continue to promote the vaccines, insisting they’re “safe, they’re effective.”

“And it’s really the best incentive to protect you, your families, and your teammates,” Kirby said.

The Pentagon said June 30 that nearly 69% of military personnel have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine.

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