SAN DIEGO –- A coronavirus vaccine mandate for servicemembers is likely on the way, but what happens if some active duty military refuse to get it?
According to a memo obtained by The Associated Press, the Pentagon will require members of the U.S. military to get the COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 15.
Attorney Don King, owner of Don King Military Law, says his team receives around three calls a week from people who will not take the vaccine.
“You can sue, but you’re not likely to be successful,” King said. “‘Ok, then can I just get out?’ The answer to that question is it’s going to depend on how the DOD (United States Department of Defense) wants to deal with this. If they just want to let the people out who don’t want to get the vaccine and just give them an honorable discharge and send them home, that’s the most likely scenario, depending on how many people and whether the DOD can keep up with its requirements, etc. But the DOD does have the right, under the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice), to charge people with violation of a lawful order.”
On Monday, San Diego County’s public health officials reported 869 new COVID-19 cases as a surge in infections in the county continues to increase dramatically and the military prepares to require servicemembers get the vaccine.
According to the Department of Defense, there are more than 110,000 active-duty military personnel in San Diego County. In the U.S., more than one million troops are fully vaccinated and another 237,000 have received one shot, according to the Pentagon, but the military services vary widely in their vaccination rates.
King said those looking to fight a mandate would likely be out of luck. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is pushing for full vaccination of the U.S. military by September 15, but needs President Joe Biden’s approval to move forward.
Army General Mark Milley released a memo Monday.
“…Mandating vaccines in the military is not new,” the memo read. “Since the first days of basic training and throughout our service, we’ve received multiple vaccines. We have proven processes with trusted and skilled medical professionals.”
John Thomas, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, said he thinks it’s a “little belated,” but understands the other point of view, too.
FOX 5 spoke to a handful of veterans and military families Monday to get their thoughts on the pending vaccine mandate.
“Personally, I think they should have a choice, but they are also in the military,” said Mackenzie Bostin, whose fiancé is in the Marines.
Another Army veteran named Eric said he remembers when he got on a plane to go to Saudi Arabia.
“There was a row of doctors there to shoot something into your arm,” he said.
Eric said he has been vaccinated, but he also believes in the right to choose. He thinks more active duty members may get vaccinated if the FDA would give the vaccine full approval, and in fact, that could be coming in the next few weeks.
King said if that happens, it will make it tougher for servicemen and women to refuse it. He said those looking to press their luck may be lucky to get an honorable discharge, but that’s not a great solution either.
City News Service contributed to this report.