U.S. military discharged thousands over COVID vaccine. Ted Cruz is trying to fix it. | Opinion
For many of us in Texas, the pandemic probably feels like it was a world away, mostly because we had quarantines and mask mandates for only a short time. By spring 2020, Gov. Greg Abbott had already done the right thing and opened up the state, and he later ignored national pressure to force schools to require vaccines. This wasn’t the case everywhere.
The U.S. military instituted a vaccine mandate, and about 8,000 who refused a brand new vaccine rushed through testing — and about which we later learned that the Pfizer vaccine, at least, was not tested to prevent transmission of the virus — were dishonorably discharged.
Men and women, patriots who love this country and who had been on multiple tours abroad, who had put themselves in harms way on our behalf, were discharged from the institution they pledged to, over a vaccine that probably didn’t do what the World Health Organization, the CDC, and UNICEF, touted it would do. (Remember UNICEF’s campaign? “I vaccinate for you.”)
At the time, vaccine mandates among businesses and other organizations may have seemed like the right thing to do, and maybe it was, but things have since shifted. As COVID continued to spread, seemingly without regard to who had been vaccinated and boosted, vaccine mandates have been lifted. People who have been vaccinated are still getting COVID, though the vaccine tends to lessen the effect. Others who were vaccinated have never gotten sick. The virus is indiscriminate, it would appear.
A state judge in New York ruled that the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for municipal workers was enacted illegally and that the 1,750 employees who were fired for refusing to comply with the mandate and get vaccinated must be immediately reinstated with back pay.
Thus, Sen. Ted Cruz is right to put forth a bill, the Americans Act, which would prohibit the secretary of defense from issuing another similar mandate without congressional approval, protect members of the military from future recriminations, and require the Pentagon to reinstate any service member separated solely for their COVID-19 vaccine status, should they desire to return, and their rank.
According to the Texas Republican’s office, the measure “builds off of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2023, which included language from legislation Cruz introduced last year to repeal the COVID-19 vaccine mandate in the Department of Defense.” That bill also would have required a report on how the department handled requests for exemptions based on religious grounds or other issues.
The bill, co-sponsored by several other senators with a companion bill in the House, may not pick up speed, given Democratic control of the Senate. But it should.
A robust military is a necessity; we can’t afford to lose 8,000 troops over something like this. And our members of the military deserve better.