A major legal question over the last few months has been exactly how much right an employer has to mandate a vaccine, particularly in the middle of a global pandemic that has taken well over half a million lives in the U.S. alone. However, when it comes to the military, the question becomes essentially moot.
Joining the United States military means signing a contract. At the end of that contract, a member can decide whether to move on or re-up, and there are certainly reasons that the contract might come to an early end, with a member discharged for a number of reasons. One thing that can’t happen, though, is a person still under contract to the military walking off the job and ‘quitting’ because of a personal grievance, and the military letting it happen.
That didn’t stop Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY) from tweeting to declare that military members are contacting him and declaring an intention to do exactly that — quit — if the COVID-19 vaccine is made mandatory, as could happen in coming months.
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. https://t.co/lbqYESmBYy
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) July 3, 2021
With his tweet, Massie shared a Army Times article that makes it clear the vaccine won’t be mandatory until it has full FDA approval, and that this could be as soon as September. (One common anti-vax excuse is that the vaccines are currently available under emergency approval, with anti-vaxxers often claiming they’re still “experimental” vaccines.)
Still, Massie laid out this threat as though a mass exodus of the military as a vaccine protest was a real thing that might happen in near months, and introduced a bill to forbid the military from requiring members to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Balance Careers actually published a list of some vaccinations that military members are currently (as of 2019) required to accept, including the flu shot, the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella), and the polio vaccine, as well as others that might be required for deployments or as necessary to enter other countries. “Vaccinations are a way of life in the U.S. Military,” the site explained, even before anyone in the United States had heard of COVID-19 or a vaccine to prevent it.
Massie was called out by other Republicans, including Representative Adam Kinzinger and former Representative Denver Riggleman, both of whom tried to explain that the military already requires a long list of vaccinations, that ‘quitting’ the military in protest is not an available option, and of course, that healthy troops are much more able to defend the country than sick or dead ones.
They can’t just quit. That’s the whole oath to the constitution, service contracts and all that.
Military personnel are mandated to receive many vaccinations. I was jabbed dozens of times. Sick military members affect readiness. Death doesn’t help either. https://t.co/BB6qJvPr5l
— Denver Riggleman (@RepRiggleman) July 4, 2021
So much wrong with this tweet even beyond how naive it is; 1) sorry, but you can’t quit the military. 2) there are about 3890 mandatory vaccines in the military already, 3) you knew this when you joined. 4) THE VACCINE WORKS. Good luck with your pandering though https://t.co/tVJ8RJ9EXL
— Adam Kinzinger (@AdamKinzinger) July 5, 2021
Still, the facts have not deterred Massie, who boasted two days later that his tweet had gotten a lot of attention from the people trying to explain facts to him — or, as he called them, “science-illiterate, military hating, angry [verified blue-checkmark Twitter users].”
The science-illiterate, military hating, angry blue ✔️’s targeted this post yesterday and in doing so helped me get over 7 million impressions!
ps. There are no health outcomes based studies that show any benefit from the vaccine for those who have already had COVID. pic.twitter.com/yokruxQrZg
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) July 5, 2021
He also denied that studies have proven health benefits to one subset of recipients — those who already had the virus. However, he did not address the evidence showing the vaccine as a successful preventative, nor did he address the basic primary fact that military members cannot walk out over it.
We’re left with the question: did a U.S. Representative really not know that the military mandates vaccines and that members can’t walk off over them, or did he just tweet something misleading because of all the attention it successfully (and necessarily, as it could hardly be ignored) received?
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Steph Bazzle reports on social issues and religion for Hill Reporter. She focuses on stories that speak to everyone's right to practice what they believe in and receive the support of their communities and government officials. You can reach her at Steph@HillReporter.com