President Joe Biden (D) has signed an $847 billion defense policy bill that repeals his administration’s requirement that all U.S. military members get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The National Defense Authorization Act, signed by Biden on Friday, states that the requirement will be repealed within 30 days of becoming law, Politico reported.
Congressional Democrats agreed to the repeal provision while crafting the legislation with Republicans. While Democrats initially argued that the vaccines were necessary to protect servicemembers from COVID-19, Republicans argued that the requirement violated bodily rights and would result in too many servicemembers being discharged for non-vaccination. They also said that sufficiently high numbers of military members were already getting vaccinated.
By April, 3,400 troops had been involuntarily separated from service for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine. About 70 percent received general discharges, service personnel chiefs told Military Times.
It’s entirely possible that Biden’s Department of Defense could issue a new vaccine requirement after the old one is repealed, but such a move would likely be opposed by Republicans who will be in control of the U.S. House starting in January.
“Republicans are expected to continue to press the Pentagon over reinstating troops who were kicked out and giving them back pay,” Politico reported.
Initially, the military vaccine mandate required different full vaccination deadlines for active members in various military branches, most occurring during the final two months of 2021, though reservists in each branch had a bit longer to get vaccinated.
In late December 2021, a district judge in Oklahoma ruled against state Governor Kevin Stitt’s lawsuit objecting to the National Guard’s mandate. But the judge denied Stitt’s request for an injunction blocking the mandate, ruling that their claims were insufficient to stop the federal order.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott filed a similar case in his state. In early January 2022, a Texas judge found in favor of 35 Navy members who said they didn’t want to get vaccinated due to religious objections.
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