Defense

Judge rejects Sidney Powell’s challenge to Pentagon’s vaccine mandate

A judge on Friday rejected ex-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell’s challenge of the Pentagon’s vaccine mandate.

Powell’s Texas-based group, dubbed Defending the Republic, filed a lawsuit in October on behalf of 16 active-duty service members “in support of their right to refuse” the COVID-19 vaccine.

The lawsuit named Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, acting Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Janet Woodcock, Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro and Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth as defendants.

The plaintiffs argued that the vaccine mandate imposed “unconstitutional conditions by forcing Plaintiffs to choose between violation of their constitutional rights or facing life-altering punishments,” and argued that the FDA’s approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was unconstitutional.

They said the vaccine mandate was invalid because it did not go through required “notice-and-comment rulemaking.”

The lawsuit specifically asked the court to block the Pentagon from implementing the mandate and compel the FDA to retract its approval of the Pfizer vaccine.

U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor on Friday, however, ruled that the plaintiffs’ lawsuit did not reach the “extraordinary burden of showing the mandate lacks any rationality.”

He said there was a slim chance that the service members’ assertion regarding the “notice-and-comment rulemaking” would stand because the vaccine mandate was announced one day after the FDA granted full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

“On the merits, the plaintiffs haven’t made a substantial showing that the FDA acted without a reasonable scientific basis,” Winsor, a Trump appointee, wrote in the ruling. “The FDA is entitled to substantial deference because drug licensing decisions involve ‘scientific determination[s]’ within the FDA’s ‘area of special expertise.’”

The Pentagon announced in August that it would be mandating COVID-19 vaccines for all service members, after the Pfizer shot received full approval.

The department did not set a deadline for when all personnel had to be inoculated, instead allowing each branch to create their own target dates.

Reached for comment on the ruling, the Pentagon told The Hill that it does not comment on pending litigation.

The Hill reached out to HHS, the FDA and Powell for comment.

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