Troops move to block Pentagon vaccine requirement in court
Two service members filed a potential class action lawsuit against Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to attempt to block him from requiring all troops receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Army Staff Sgt. Dan Robert and Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Hollie Mulvihill, who filed the complaint Aug. 17 in the U.S. District Court of Colorado, also want the Pentagon to create a vaccine exemption for those previously infected with the coronavirus as they already have “natural immunity.”
The two, who are both based in North Carolina, argue that the Defense Department’s vaccine mandate “is in open violation” of the rights of service members and is unconstitutional.
Austin is named as a defendant in the lawsuit as are Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Janet Woodcock, acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The Pentagon chief in late August ordered service members to “immediately begin” receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, with the military services setting the deadlines for the requirement.
The Pentagon has also made clear it would only require a COVID-19 vaccine that had full FDA approval, which the Pfizer shot received on Aug. 23.
But Robert and Mulvihill, who filed their complaint days prior to the FDA decision, base their argument on the Pfizer vaccine’s previous emergency-use authorization standing.
They also say they should be exempt from the mandate because they already caught and recovered from COVID-19.
More than 372,000 coronavirus cases — 244,300 of which were service members — have been reported among U.S. military personnel, with 5,274 hospitalizations and 515 deaths, according to Defense data.
As of Wednesday, 58 troops, sailors and airmen have died from the illness.