A pair of House Republicans traded barbs on Twitter about requiring the COVID vaccine for all US military personnel, amid a long shot push to bar The Pentagon from mandating the jab.
The Defense Department does not have the legal authority to require soldiers take the COVID vaccine currently, as it was only approved by the FDA for emergency use authorization.
As a result, it can only be encouraged for soldiers, but not required, as scores of other vaccines are by the armed forces.
Pfizer and Moderna continue to await full authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for their COVID vaccines, though both are widely expected to be approved for a fuller authorization.
Once that occurs, DoD officials will be able to mandate the vaccine for active-duty service members.
While full authorization for one or both vaccines is not expected for a few months, the Army Times reported last Thursday that the Army has directed commands to prepare to administer mandatory vaccines as early as Sept. 1 of this year.
The directive, obtained by the outlet, came from the Department of the Army Headquarters.
Responding to that report on Saturday, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) wrote on Twitter that, “I’ve been contacted by members of our voluntary military who say they will quit if the COVID vaccine is mandated,” before referencing his legislation to prohibit such a requirement.
The legislative effort, which has little-to-no chance of ever becoming law, has an impressive 24 cosponsors from all ends of the political spectrum.
However, the factual problem with Massie’s tweet was his reference to “quitting” the military.
Once an individual has reported for duty and taken the oath of enlistment, service members are contractually obligated to remain in the armed forces.
Leaving without the permission of the military is considered going absent without official leave.
Going AWOL is considered a serious desertion charge, something Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said those in the armed forces understood going in.
Kinzinger, who served in the Air Force, wrote in response to Massie that there was “[s]o much wrong with this tweet even beyond how naive it is,” before listing his grievances.
First, Kinzinger noted, “sorry, but you can’t quit the military.” Second, he said, “there are about 3890 mandatory vaccines in the military already.”
Kinzinger took issue with Massie’s apparent ignorance on the myriad other vaccine requirements, writing for this third point, “you knew this when you joined” before adding “THE VACCINE WORKS” as his fourth and final statement.
“Good luck with your pandering though,” Kinzinger added.
Former Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.), who retired in 2020, also took aim at Massie on Twitter Sunday, writing, “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,” he added.
In response, Massie doubled down, tweeting out Monday, “Thank you to the science-illiterate libs who boosted my military-vaccine tweet to 13 million impressions!
“I’m no expert on the terms under which someone would be discharged from the military for refusing a vaccine, and I don’t give legal advice but there’s a history.”