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A new vaccine could be an option for troops with religious concerns

WASHINGTON – A COVID-19 vaccine that could soon receive federal approval could give the US military a boost: an opportunity to inject some of the thousands of military personnel who have turned down other coronavirus vaccines for religious reasons.

At least 175 active duty and reserve duty members have already received the Novavax vaccine, with some even traveling overseas at their own expense to receive it. The vaccine meets MoD requirements as it has World Health Organization emergency use clearance and will be used in Europe and other regions. The Food and Drug Administration is considering giving him an emergency use authorization in the United States

The Novavax vaccine could be an acceptable option for some of the 27,000 military personnel who have requested religious exemptions from mandatory vaccination. Military officials say many troops opposing the firing cite the remote link of certain COVID-19 vaccines to abortions.

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Laboratory-grown cell lines derived from fetuses that were aborted decades ago were used in some early tests of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and to grow viruses used to make the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The vaccines do not contain fetal cells. However, Novavax says that “no human fetal cell lines or tissues” were used in the development, manufacture or production of its vaccine.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory last year and said the shots are critical to maintaining military readiness and the health of the troops. Military leaders have argued that troops have needed up to 17 vaccines for decades, particularly for those stationed abroad.

A group involved in court cases challenging the military’s vaccination requirement said it’s possible some gunshot opponents may see Novavax as an accessible option.

“I definitely think it applies to some, but certainly not all,” said Mike Berry, director of military affairs at First Liberty Institute. “There are some for whom abortion is really the ultimate problem, and when that problem is resolved spiritually for them, then they are ready.”

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But Berry added that for others, abortion is “just a side issue” and they have broader opposition to vaccines overall. “A rudimentary view is that they asked God’s will and believe that getting the vaccine would be wrong,” Berry said. “In other words, they believe God told them no.”

Novavax could also appeal to people who are uncomfortable with the new gene-based technology used in Pfizer’s and Moderna’s so-called mRNA vaccines. They provide the body with genetic instructions to make copies of the coronavirus’s outer shell, the spike protein.

The Novavax vaccine is made using a more familiar technology that has been used to prevent hepatitis B and shingles for years. According to Novavax Research Director Dr. Gregory Glenn trains the body to fight the coronavirus by providing copies of the outer coating that are grown in insect cells, then purified and packaged into nanoparticles that resemble a virus to the immune system.

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While some religious groups oppose the vaccinations, when the COVID-19 vaccines were first rolled out, the Vatican Doctrinal Office called the options “morally acceptable,” and Pope Francis, who has received Pfizer vaccinations, has strongly endorsed one widely used vaccination.

Berry said he didn’t know how many would find Novavax acceptable, but estimated it could be a small percentage. The First Liberty Institute and the law firm Schaerr Jaffe LLP are representing a number of Navy sailors in one lawsuit and nine airmen in another.

Military officials declined to publicly explain the nature of military personnel’s religious exemption requests, but spoke on condition of anonymity to provide some descriptions. They said the most prevalent problem mentioned in waivers is the distant connection to fetal cell lines, while others argue that her body is a temple that must remain clean. Others, officials said, describe reasons that appear to have less to do with faith.

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Berry said his firm carefully screens individuals for the lawsuits to ensure their objections are based on genuinely held religious beliefs and not on political or other opposition masquerading as belief-based views.

The military cannot give the Novavax shot now and will not pay anyone to travel abroad to get it. But tens of thousands of American forces are stationed in Europe, where Novavax is available.

Earlier this week, FDA advisors endorsed the Novavax vaccine. Next, the FDA has to decide whether to allow it. A final decision from the FDA is not expected immediately as the agency combs through the data.

According to the latest statistics provided by the services, more than 5,000 military personnel have been discharged across the military for refusing the vaccine. Of those who requested religious exemptions, just over 100 were granted.

In the lawsuit against the Navy, a Texas federal judge agreed that the case could proceed as a class action and issued an injunction barring the service from taking action against seafarers who objected to the vaccine on religious grounds. Berry said the Justice Department said it would appeal the verdict to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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In the Air Force lawsuit, Berry said, attorneys have asked that it also be a class action and they are seeking an injunction preventing the Air Force from taking adverse action. The court has not yet decided.

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AP Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/06/09/new-vaccine-may-be-option-for-troops-with-religious-concerns/ A new vaccine could be an option for troops with religious concerns

Sarah Y. Kim

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