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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter August 14, 2020

Vaccines and the Armed Forces: There “AIN’T” NO “Anti-vaxxers” in the Military

  • Richard Rosen


As many of you may remember from your first-year Tort and Constitutional Law courses, courts recognize the right of competent adults to refuse medical treatment, even if necessary to save their lives; this generally includes the right to refuse immunizations from diseases, particularly if the vaccine has not yet been approved by the Food & Drug Administration. As you also undoubtedly know, servicemembers are different. To maintain the strength and readiness of the armed forces, military personnel must undergo necessary medical treatment. Otherwise, if they become casualties to disease or other treatable disabilities, servicemembers become burdens on their units, and their jobs must be assumed by others—often leaving their units short-handed. Their illnesses or disabilities thus affect the ability of their units to accomplish their missions and may jeopardize the safety and lives of their fellow servicemembers. Indeed, until World War II, the majority of combat deaths in military units engaged in combat were due to infectious diseases rather than direct combat injuries.

Corresponding author: Richard Rosen, Texas Tech University School of Law, 3311 18th st, Lubbock, Texas, 79409-0004, USA

Glenn D. West Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Military Law & Policy, Texas Tech University School of Law; Colonel, United States Army (retired). This paper is taken from a keynote address to the Global Biodefense Symposium, Texas Tech University School of Law, on April 11, 2019.

Funding source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Award Identifier / Grant number: Unassigned

Funding source: U.S. Department of Defense

Award Identifier / Grant number: Unassigned

Published Online: 2020-08-14

© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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