What Are Your Rights: Determining Vaccine Rights for Military Members

Recorded on October 13, 2021

The Department of Defense has made COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for the nation’s troops and has given them staggered deadlines ranging from November 2021 until June of 2022 to comply, depending upon the branch of the military.

Managing Partner Paul Harding of Martin, Harding and Mazzotti, LLP is on CBS6 to help examine this issue.

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Announcer: The following segment is sponsored by Martin, Harding & Mazzotti.

Interviewer: The Department of Defense has made COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for the nation’s troops and has given them staggered deadlines ranging as soon as this November until June of 2022 to comply depending upon the branch of the military. Here to help examine this issue is managing partner Paul Harding from the law firm of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti. Paul, so I’m gonna get right into it, why the push to ensure that all troops are vaccinated?

Paul: Well, I think we’re seeing a couple things. One is we’re seeing that the nation is getting vaccinated. We saw college kids couldn’t go back to school without it. We’re seeing healthcare workers mandatory, right? So, if you think about it, if you’re in the military, you work, your employer is the federal government, right? So, they’re sort of kind of making what they perceive to be their own to be vaccinated, and again, under certain circumstances. They need to be out in the general public, and they’re gonna be exposing others, if they have the vaccine, kind of something that was not unexpected.

Interviewer: Why are there different dates for different branches of the military? Why isn’t this just a uniform requirement across the board?

Paul: Well, officially they’re saying, “Look, the military is big, we’re gonna do it in increments.” But the truth is, it’s big, but not as big as the country, which is moving along pretty quickly. In the 1990s they required the anthrax vaccine, and what they saw was there was a large number of people, just outside of the normal people, who did not re-enlist. Folks who were in the National Guard who went on some hiatus and said, “Well, we’re gonna sit out for a while.” So, I think to some degree they want to see how it plays out. They don’t want to lose a bunch of people and leave us in a military vulnerable position.

Interviewer: Absolutely. Is there any way to opt out of the vaccine for soldiers, and what are the consequences for members of the military who just refuse?

Paul: Well, opting out is not gonna happen because, you know, you say, “Well, I don’t believe in vaccines.” You’ve had a lot of vaccines, and you’ve agreed to it already to be in the military, right? When you show up, it’s vaccination time, so that argument is not really gonna win the day. The military…I’m sorry, the medical, very limited. But what’s gonna happen? Of course, there’s gonna be folks, we see all over the country, whether you’re a basketball player or whether you’re, you know, in whatever position say, “I’m not doing it,” a pilot, etc. So, when they do that, we’re gonna see administrative hearings. It can get to the level of a discharge, less than honorable, and I think we’re gonna see how it plays out but they’re anticipating that this stuff will be happening and in the news. And again, to the degree, the number of people that don’t cooperate with this mandate, we’re gonna wait and see.

Interviewer: All right, Paul. Well, of course, we’ll see more developments as the deadlines approach. If you’d like to keep up with this topic, just head to our website cbs6albany.com.

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