Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) said he was informed by some members of the U.S. military that they would quit if the armed forces mandated a COVID-19 vaccine, coming after a report claimed that Army headquarters told commanders to prepare for mandatory vaccinations in September.
“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 wrote on Twitter. He didn’t provide more details.
It isn’t clear how the service members could quit or how many would try to do so. Once a member reports to their first duty station, they are obligated to stay within the service of the armed forces. If a service member leaves without approval, they can be declared AWOL, or absent without leave.
The Republican lawmaker was referring to a report published by the Army Times over the weekend that detailed an executive order sent by the Department of the Army Headquarters that commands should be prepared to administer COVID-19 vaccines starting as early as Sept. 1. The date is contingent on when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issues its full approval of the vaccines.
The Army Times reported that it had obtained the directive, HQDA EXORD 225-21, COVID-19 Steady State.
“Commanders will continue COVID-19 vaccination operations and prepare for a directive to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for service members [on or around] 01 September 2021, pending full FDA licensure. Commands will be prepared to provide a backbrief on servicemember vaccination status and way ahead for completion once the vaccine is mandated,” the directive reads.
An EXORD is a directive issued by the president to the defense secretary to execute a military operation.
In this May 28, 2019, file photo, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) speaks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol after he blocked a unanimous consent vote on a long-awaited hurricane disaster aid bill in the chamber. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo)
The Department of Defense and the U.S. Army didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.
“We do not comment on leaked documents,” a U.S. Army spokesperson told the Army Times, noting that “the vaccine continues to be voluntary.”
“If we are directed by [Department of Defense] to change our posture, we are prepared to do so.”
On July 5, Massie noted that his Twitter post was “targeted” by “science-illiterate, military hating, angry blue [checkmark]” users on Twitter.
“There are no health outcomes based studies that show any benefit from the vaccine for those who have already had COVID,” he wrote.
The congressman also pointed to a Department of Defense study published in late June that found a higher number of military members who got the vaccine experienced higher than expected rates of heart inflammation.
U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force physicians found 23 cases of myocarditis, a type of heart inflammation, in previously healthy men. They developed the condition within four days of getting the vaccine, a study published in JAMA Cardiology found.
The study comes weeks after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention panel found a higher rate of heart inflammation after mRNA vaccines were administered. However, the agency and other health officials have said the benefit of getting the vaccine outweighs the risks.