Can a Service Member Be Compelled to Take the COVID Vaccine?

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As more and more people have been vaccinated against COVID-19, and more public institutions are requiring it for entry, it begs the question of whether or not service members are required to take it as well. While service members can refuse to take the vaccine, they may face disciplinary consequences.

Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), service members may be compelled to take vaccinations. In fact, several vaccinations are required of military members in order to successfully enlist in the first place, and everyone must report for a medical screening. Additionally, in order to be deployed to certain countries, certain vaccinations are required, as they may protect from diseases common in such locations. Vaccines may be administered to combat diseases such as:

  • Tetanus
  • Cholera
  • Hepatitis B
  • Meningitis
  • Whooping cough
  • Yellow fever
  • Typhoid
  • Polio

While it may be the newest example of a vaccine military members are being asked to take or else face consequences such as court-martial, it’s certainly not the first. In fact, in 2012, there was a case involving a service member who was set to be deployed to Afghanistan who cited religious reasons for refusing the Anthrax and Smallpox vaccines. He eventually pled guilty to disobeying the order and was sentenced to three months in the Brig and a Bad Conduct Discharge. 

In one case, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces discussed why service members are compelled to be vaccinated:

  1. Vaccines protect against certain biological weapons; and
  2. The requirement for an effective and cohesive fighting force in peacetime as well as war makes it necessary to protect individual health and also that of those in the same unit from life-threatening or disabling disease.

Put simply, the military may order service members to take a vaccine. Military case law has established that traditional defenses, such as necessity and duress are not applicable to a vaccination violation. In fact, previous case law found that an FDA-licensed product did not required “informed consent” to be taken. However, this was in response to the Anthrax vaccine, which was not an experimental drug. However, since COVID-19 is like Anthrax, in which it can be spread to others, the safety of others is considered more important than the individual choice. 

If you have received disciplinary consequences for refusing to take a vaccine or are thinking about refusing to take a vaccine, it’s in your best interest to speak with a qualified military attorney. 

The Court-Martial Law Division of Aviso Law LLC Helps Military Members in Colorado Who Have Been Charged with a Crime

The U.S. Government has an interest in obtaining a conviction as soon as possible, as it does not wish to gain negative publicity about one of its service members. That is why it is so important to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced military attorney as soon as possible.

If you are a military service member (active or reserve) and have been charged with a crime under the UCMJ, the Court-Martial Law Division of Aviso Law LLC can help. We proudly serve our military members, who sacrifice so much for our country. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

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