Vaccine Holdouts in the Military Find Support Online

Vaccine Holdouts in the Military Find Support Online U.S. Army soldier A U.S. Army soldier from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

By Peter Malbin | Tuesday, 01 February 2022 12:25 PM

The Associated Press reported in December that an estimated 20,000 troops among all the military branches were in danger of being removed from the service following President Joe Biden's mandate during last summer that troops be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

There are more than 15,000 military service members who have refused to comply with the vaccine mandate, according to Military.com. Approximately 12,000 religious-exemption requests have been filed, and to date, only the Marine Corps has approved any of those requests — three in the last month out of more than 3,000.

Military members who object to taking the COVID-19 vaccine are finding support and information on Facebook in an anonymous, cryptic way.

The unnamed Facebook group has about 7,000 members from all the military branches and includes spouses. The group tries to conceal its purpose.

"When you're in the group, when you're typing out certain things, you have to refer to them as different things," a sergeant who reqested anonymity said to Military.com. "You can't say 'vaccine mandate' or 'appeal' or any keywords because Facebook does filter everything extremely well these days."

As the military has begun separations over failure to comply with the mandate, this online group has also become a professional resource. A captain who spoke to Military.com said that many of the group discussions revolve around areas and companies that will hire separated service members.

The group serves as a support network for exchanging details about filing legal documents with the military, vaccine information, and emotional support.

"I have gotten a lot of information from that small group that has been really, really useful in this whole process, and a lot of that information has further validated what I already believed myself and validated the research that I've already done myself," an airman who spoke to Military.com said.

On the Facebook group, "A lot of people … post their denials on there so we can see, Hey, yeah, these all look the same," a captain who spoke to Military.com said. Refusers claim the military is not individually reviewing exemption requests.

The sergeant said that "one of the No. 1 topics in our group" has been how to rebut the argument that service members have previously received vaccines either made from or developed with aborted fetal cell lines, although none of the COVID-19 vaccines contains fetal cells, Military.com observed.

One of the group members is Lt. Col. Theresa Long, an Alabama-based Army surgeon who has been outspoken against the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Military.com.

Legal filings she's made on behalf of a now-dismissed lawsuit against the military's vaccine mandate claimed that the vaccines contain the chemical polyethylene glycol.

"Polyethylene glycol is the active ingredient in antifreeze," Long wrote in the affidavit. "I cannot discern what form of alchemy Pfizer and the FDA have discovered that would make antifreeze into a healthful cure to the human body."

The active ingredient in antifreeze is actually ethylene glycol, Military.com reported. Polyethylene glycol, as many health department fact sheets note, is a common ingredient found in pharmaceutical and cosmetic products.

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