On Friday, May 6, the College of Law held Commencement for its 199 J.D. and 33 LL.M. graduates. The event, the first in-person Commencement since 2019, featured the first cohort of graduating online J.D. students. Luke Cooper L’01, CEO of…
‘Should the COVID-19 Vaccine Be Required for the Military?’
Mark Nevitt, associate professor in the College of Law, authored an op-ed for Just Security titled “Should the COVID-19 Vaccine Be Required for the Military?” Nevitt specializes in national security law and previously served as a tactical jet aviator and attorney in the United States Navy.
According to a variety of estimates, approximately one-third of active U.S. military members have opted out of the COVID-19 vaccine. Nevitt writes that some reports predict even higher rates of military service members declining the vaccine, which has prompted some members of Congress to call on President Biden to enforce mandatory vaccine orders for the military.
Nevitt answers a variety of questions related to the possibility of vaccine enforcement, including whether military members can legally be required to receive the vaccine. Ultimately the answer is yes, Nevitt says, but it would require President Biden to waive a pre-existing informed consent requirement.
Nevitt also addresses lessons from earlier military vaccination efforts when the military ordered the anthrax vaccination for all service members. He explains that federal courts ruled against the Department of Defense’s mandatory vaccination program based on claims that the order violated informed consent, but military judges routinely upheld the order as it was in the best interest of the nation. Therefore, Nevitt concludes that while federal courts may strike down a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination order, military courts would likely uphold the ruling from Biden.
Luckily the COVID-19 fatality rate for the military is very low, but Nevitt says that recent outbreaks on Navy ships have prompted discussions about how high vaccine opt-out rates may impact national security. Ultimately, Nevitt believes that the U.S. government must “double-down” on its efforts to counteract misinformation about the vaccine in order to get more military members vaccinated, regardless of whether the vaccine is mandated.
To read his essay in its entirety, visit justsecurity.org.
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