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Governor Stitt loses federal appeal to block vaccine mandate for National Guard

by Mike Creef, Staff Writer
governor stitt national guard covid vaccine mandate
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Judge Stephen Friot ruled on Tuesday to deny Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt’s appeal of the federal vaccine mandate for National Guard members.

“The court has carefully considered the relevant constitutional, statutory, and regulatory authorities and has concluded, quite readily, that the military vaccination mandate is valid and enforceable as applied to the [National] Guard and that, consequently, the Governor and his co-plantiffs have not demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits,” the decision read.

The federal judge denied Stitt’s lawsuit that challenged the Pentagon’s military-wide vaccine mandate for COVID-19. Stitt asserted that the Pentagon was overstepping its constitutional authority.

“Adding a tenth … vaccine to the list of nine that all service members are already required to take would hardly amount to ‘an enormous and transformative expansion [of the] regulatory authority’ the Secretary of Defense already possesses,” Judge Friot wrote in his ruling.

Stitt tried to lead a resistance to military vaccine mandates…he failed.

“The court is required to decide this case on the basis of federal law, not common sense. But, either way, the result would be the same. The claims asserted by the Governor and his co-plaintiffs are without merit,” the federal judge said.

Two weeks ago, the governors of five states; Wyoming, Alaska, Iowa, Mississippi, and Nebraska all signed a joint letter urging the Pentagon to reconsider vaccine requirements for their National Guards. Tuesday’s ruling will likely become precedent in the Pentagon’s response to governors looking to have their National Guard excluded from the military mandate.

In a letter dated November 2nd, Stitt wrote Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin that the “mandate violates the personal freedoms of many Oklahomans.” 

The Defense Secretary replied later that month that “the concerns raised in your letter do not negate the need for this important military readiness requirement. All members of the Oklahoma Army and Air National Guard, regardless of duty status, must follow…COVID-19 vaccine compliance requirements,” Austin wrote.

Military vaccinations have been mandatory for a long time

In his ruling, Judge Friot repeatedly mentioned how vaccine mandates are not new to military service members.

“The COVID vaccination mandate should be understood against the backdrop of other military immunization mandates-which date back as far as General George Washington’s mandate that troops in the Continental Army be inoculated against smallpox,” he said.

The judge did request that the Biden administration “provide a brief grace period to facilitate prompt compliance with the vaccination mandate” to National Guard members citing that the members “did not have the benefit of well-informed leadership at the highest level of the Oklahoma Guard.”

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