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Air Force pushing religious objectors to get vax that used human fetal cells, military lawyer claims

"The Air Force is pushing out guidance to commanders and attempting to pressure members of a protected class in ongoing litigation to receive a vaccine that the Air Force is on notice violates my client's religious beliefs," said attorney R. Davis Younts.

Published: August 11, 2022 7:51pm

Updated: August 14, 2022 7:06pm

The Air Force is pushing an alternative COVID-19 vaccine that used human fetal cells in its testing phase on airmen seeking religious exemptions from the service's vaccine mandate, according to an attorney for the religious objectors.

On July 15, the Air Force issued a background paper on the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine. "Pre-clinical work from Novavax compared the structure of its vaccine spike protein to existing literature where the spike protein was produced from fetal cells by non-Novavax researchers," the paper noted.

The paper was issued just a day after U.S. District Court Judge Matthew McFarland of the Southern District of Ohio granted a 14-day injunction against the Air Force's vaccine mandate on airmen seeking religious exemptions in the case of Doster v. Kendall. The injunction gave the government seven days to explain "why this Court should not grant a class-wide preliminary injunction," according to the court order.

A week after the temporary injunction was granted, the Air Force told the court that airmen objecting to mRNA vaccines on the basis of their use of human fetal cells could now receive the Novavax vaccine, which had been granted emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration a day before the judge granted the temporary injunction.

"Those class members whose religious objections were based on mRNA technology or the use of fetal-derived cell lines are no longer substantially burdened by the COVID-19 vaccine requirement because this option is now available," the Air Force argued in its filing.

The Air Force cited Novavax's claim that "[n]o human fetal-derived cell lines or tissue, including HEK293 cells, are used in the development, manufacture or production of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine candidate."

The service also noted Novavax's response to a paper published in Science that mentions using the human fetal cell line HEK-293 for testing. "The reference in the Science paper to HEK293 cells was based on well-established scientific knowledge, did not include our vaccine protein, and is completely independent of Novavax COVID-19 vaccine development," claimed the Maryland-based vaccine maker claimed.

In response to the government, the plaintiffs argued: "Defendants falsely claim that Novavax is not morally problematic for those who object to vaccines which have a connection to aborted fetal tissue and they cite to Novavax's self-serving and false public statements that its product has no connection to aborted fetal tissue. The evidence is clear and admitted by Novavax itself: aborted fetal tissue was used to test its vaccine."

The judge in the case granted the plaintiffs a preliminary injunction against the Air Force mandate on July 27.

Despite the injunction, the Air Force is pressing religious objectors to the vaccine mandate to accept Novavax as an alternative, according to plaintiffs' attorney R. Davis Younts.

"Commanders are having meetings with my Air Force clients or forcing them to meet with medical providers for counseling regarding Novavax," Younts told Just the News. "There is a hard push from the top down to have those who submitted an RAR based on the tie to abortion take Novavax. 

"My clients are deeply troubled by this action because it has been an issue that was raised in the Doster case in Ohio. The Air Force asked the judge not to issue the injunction because Air Force members could receive Novavax. The Plaintiffs responded with information demonstrating the Novavax was tied to fetal cell tissue.

"Although the Air Force is aware of the link to fetal cell tissue because of the ongoing litigation, they are pushing out official policy guidance that is inaccurate and misleading.

"This is a significant concern and my clients feel it is indicative of additional attempts to put politics over the rights of military members. The Air Force is pushing out guidance to commanders and attempting to pressure members of a protected class in ongoing litigation to receive a vaccine that the Air Force is on notice violates my client's religious beliefs."

Younts previously argued successfully before a Navy administrative separation board that the mandate for the experimental COVID vaccines was not a lawful order since the military has not made fully FDA-approved versions of the vaccines (such as Comirnaty) available to military members.

Younts is a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserves and a Judge Advocate General's Corps lawyer privately representing military members seeking religious exemptions to the vaccine mandate. His appeal of the rejection of his own religious accommodation request for an exemption was denied, but he believes the Ohio district court judge's injunction will allow him to retire from the military. 

The Air Force told Just the News on Sunday that they do not comment on ongoing litigation.

The Florida Army National Guard is holding a mandatory Novavax COVID vaccine counseling event next month for all unvaccinated service members. The event is to explain that the Novavax vaccine isn't an mRNA vaccine and that it "was not developed or produced with fetal stem-cell lines and does not violate certain religious convictions," according to an email. 

"Soldiers who do not report to the Novavax counseling event will be coded unsatisfactory participation for being AWOL," the email warns.

The Florida Army National Guard point of contact for the event didn't respond to a request for comment.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed earlier this month, Maj. Gen. James O. Eifert, the adjutant general of the Florida National Guard, warned of the adverse impact of the Pentagon's vaccine mandate on force readiness and national security.

"Florida National Guard formations face the potential loss of about 1,000 unvaccinated guardsmen out of 12,000 total airmen and soldiers" as a result of expulsions," he warned. "That leaves us shorthanded as our state enters hurricane season, while more than 1,000 soldiers and airmen are also deployed on federal missions around the world."

The threatened expulsions come at a time when the military is hobbled by severe recruitment challenges. "Only 23% of recruitment-age Americans meet eligibility requirements, and fewer still are even interested," Eifert wrote. "Why should we further damage military readiness by discharging honorably serving military members and shunning unvaccinated new recruits?"

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