New Military Mandate On COVID Vaccine Sparks Some Hesitation, But Others Welcome It

Virus Outbreal Colorado Vaccine
Christian Murdock/The Gazette via AP, Pool
Sgt. First Class Doreen Fajota gives Sgt. Brittany Koppenhaver a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, at Evans Army Community Hospital as Fort Carson U.S. Army Base in Colorado Springs became the first military installation in Colorado to administer the vaccine.

Colorado’s military service members are reacting to a new mandate by the U.S. military that they get a COVID-19 vaccine. 

The Pentagon said Monday that it will require members of the nation’s military to receive the COVID-19 vaccine now that the Pfizer vaccine has received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

The news follows months of speculation over a mandate that they get the vaccine. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin vowed earlier this month to require the shots once the FDA  gave full approval to the vaccine, and President Joe Biden indicated he would issue a presidential waiver in the case of a delay in that approval.

Millions of service members have already taken the vaccine voluntarily. Yet, many remain reluctant. After leaving a Colorado Springs coffee shop near Fort Carson Army base recently, Jeanie, an Army Specialist who would only give her first name, said she didn’t want the vaccine as a healthy 25-year-old woman. She said she’s heard rumors that the vaccines affect female fertility and menstrual cycles, though there is no evidence from the federal government supporting such claims. 

“I just feel like something’s wrong with this vaccine if they’re trying to shove it down everyone’s throats,” she said. Jeanie acknowledged, however, that in the end she might not have much choice whether to get the vaccine.

“I kinda belong to the government, cause I signed my contract. So, if it happens, I’m going to have to get it, unless I can figure something else out.”

Other members of the military CPR News talked to for this story said hesitation around getting the COVID vaccine shots is rampant among their peers.

New York-based attorney Anthony Kuhn said his office has been fielding calls for months from service members looking to request legal waivers from taking the vaccine. The military law specialist said he expects some waivers to be granted for certain health reasons or verifiable religious objections. Yet, he said FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine severely limits service member options.

“I think that ship is dead in the water. It’s going to be a very difficult case to win,” Kuhn said.

Fort Carson Command Sergeant Major Dave Silva said most of the soldiers he oversees have not had a problem taking the vaccine and he finds it essential to the safety of his team. 

“It makes sense, because we are always in close proximity to each other. We have to be safe. We have to protect ourselves,” Silva said. “I can’t have a disease taking my fighters out of the fight.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a memo the nation’s military branches should impose ambitious timelines for all of their members to get the vaccines. The mandatory inoculations will only consist of those approved by the FDA, which again at this point, is only the Pfizer-BioNTech shot.

Moderna has also just completed filing for full FDA approval of its vaccine.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.