As monkeypox cases grow across the country, health officials are scrambling to play catch-up in deploying safe and effective vaccines to eligible Americans desperate to avoid painful rashes, among other symptoms caused by the disease. The shots have been in remarkably short supply, even as officials in cities from New York to San Francisco have declared public-health emergencies over the new outbreak.

Thanks in part to these supply-chain issues, broad access to the shots—much less any kind of mandate to get inoculated—remains something of a pipe dream. But in this new health crisis, at least one law firm that has a history of representing soldiers who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19 sees plenty of opportunity.

“There is a lot of vaccine hesitancy in the military,” Sean Timmons, a managing partner of the Houston, Texas, branch of the firm Tully Rinckey, told The Daily Beast. “Recruiting in the military has been diminished because of this vaccine resistance after COVID. So we’re just trying to get in front of it.”

Timmons’ firm blasted out a media advisory on Wednesday about the possibility that a COVID-19-style vaccine mandate could be imposed on military service members as monkeypox cases rise—despite no hint of this from the Pentagon. “This could affect military readiness as adding another experimental vaccine to an already long list of vaccines might leave service members questioning their future in the military,” the release read.

A spokesperson for the Department of Defense did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown Law Center, stressed that if the military did ultimately decide to require monkeypox vaccination, they would have legal grounds to do so. And, he noted, disease outbreaks represent their own threat to military readiness.

However, Gostin told The Daily Beast on Wednesday that it is “very unlikely” that service members will be required to get the vaccine anytime soon.

“It’s not even recommended as a general population thing, so if it were required, it would be required for people who… are at high risk,” Gostin, who is also a Daily Beast contributor, said. “Mostly if they’ve been diagnosed or exposed to monkeypox. It’s because of the nature of the disease. It’s not a disease that’s transmitted widely within the population.”

Whatever happens in the military, referring to safe and effective COVID-19 shots as “experimental,” as the press release did, is a trademark of anti-vaccine activism. And far-right conspiracy theorists have been freaking out about the prospect of some kind of elite-orchestrated monkeypox health regime for months now.

But Timmons insisted in an interview he is himself vaccinated against COVID and not an anti-vaxxer, and that the press release is simply “trying to bring awareness to the issue as early as possible.”

The attorney claimed that his firm has represented about 200 service members across every branch of the military in litigation against COVID vaccines. He added that he was actively working on about a dozen cases as troops resist that inoculation for alleged medical or religious reasons.

Still, the evidence of what at the very least amounts to robust vaccine roll-out skepticism on Timmons’ part is clear. In a recent blog post on his company’s website, he expressed his belief that a COVID-19 vaccine mandate could pose a “national security risk,” going so far as to say that “it’s a fraud on the American people to say it is a legitimate vaccine. It is simply therapeutic medication.

“We don’t shove Tylenol down people’s throat absent their consent. We shouldn’t be forcing individuals to take medication in their bodies,” he added.

Suffice it to say, likening vaccines that have saved millions of lives to over-the-counter painkillers is far from the medical mainstream. When asked about the post, Timmon stressed that on a personal level he believes in vaccinations—noting that he has gotten the jab three times.

“I am not telling anyone not to take the vaccine, but I am putting an egg on the face of the government,” he said when asked about his blog post. “It’s a tough balance: I am trying to tell people to get vaccines in my own personal recommendation. But at the same time, I am trying to represent people who have a medical or religious reason not to get the vaccine.”

In other words, it’s all in the game.

“We just want to give people their options,” Timmons said.



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