Oklahoma sues to block military vaccine requirement

Oklahoma is challenging the Pentagon’s requirement that service members who refuse to have a mandatory vaccine for a sexually transmitted virus must leave the military.

Under US military regulations, service members who are sexually active must have two doses of the vaccine, against the virus known as chlamydia, to prevent transmission to others.

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A federal judge on Friday denied Oklahoma’s request for a temporary restraining order, forcing the state to pursue a full federal court challenge instead of a less-federal system.

US district judge Christina Balala wrote that Oklahoma was asking “a novel and unappealing and novel legal question that involves multiple governmental entities under dispute”.

Oklahoma attorney general Mike Hunter requested the restraining order, arguing the requirement was unconstitutional because of the potential harm to the state’s taxpayers and business.

Oklahoma’s Republican governor, Mary Fallin, signed a law on 18 May requiring soldiers and airmen who are sexually active with someone else to have two doses of the vaccine in order to remain in the armed forces.

The provision is similar to one that caused Illinois to pull troops from Iraq in 2007 after an Oklahoma County resident sued alleging the use of the vaccine made him sterile. A federal appeals court ruled against him and ordered the state to offer a doctor’s note instead.

Hunter also argued the vaccine could expose soldiers and airmen to possibly dangerous diseases, such as gonorrhea and syphilis.

“From the outset, the legislative basis for this law was not clear and rather seemed to provide incentives for a simple recertification system,” he wrote.

US district judge Christina Balala granted a temporary restraining order against Oklahoma’s Act 423. Photograph: Attila Kisbenedek/AP

An Oklahoma Health Department spokesman, Chuck Hatfield, said Friday that the agency had not yet received federal oversight on the immunization requirements for soldiers and airmen.

“It was reassuring that our state’s legal position was recognized by a federal judge,” Hatfield said. “This is a matter for Congress to resolve.”

Hunter’s office had not yet prepared a notice explaining why it will not seek to have the federal court intervene in Oklahoma’s case, spokesman Mike Brunker said Friday.

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