Pentagon is 'Misleading' Service Members by Promoting Novavax as 'Ethical' Vaccine Option, Attorney Alleges

Pentagon is 'Misleading' Service Members by Promoting Novavax as 'Ethical' Vaccine Option, Attorney Alleges
A hospital corpsman administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a fellow corpsman at Naval Health Clinic Hawaii on Dec. 16, 2020. (Naval Health Clinic Hawaii)

An Air Force veteran and attorney is calling into question the Pentagon and Air Force’s promotion of Novavax as a vaccine that doesn’t have links to fetal-derived cell lines, saying that this is not the case.

With nearly 20 years of military service, Lt. Col. Davis Younts currently serves as an Air Force Reserve Judge Advocate General (JAG). Younts represents multiple military clients in his private capacity as a civilian attorney.

“From the very beginning, everything to do with the military vaccine mandate [issued by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in August 2021] has been misleading,” Younts told The Epoch Times.

One example of this, he argued, is the “bait and switch” of portraying Pfizer-BioNTech-labeled products—which received approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA)—as a vaccine with full FDA approval.

Younts also noted that military members began to face various threats for their religious objection to the vaccine, ranging from court martial to time in jail.

“Constant pressure is applied to [the unvaccinated] as if the only thing that matters is not military readiness, the law, or justice, but shots in arms,” Younts said.

The JAG filed for a religious accommodation himself, but it was denied.

Today, Younts said he represents about 60 military members in a similar predicament, including Corey Maverick, a group of SEALs currently protected by a preliminary injunction issued in January, and several others who have faced threats of court martial and incarceration.

A vial labelled "Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine" is seen in this illustration taken Jan. 16, 2022. (Reuters/Dado Ruvic/Illustration)
A vial labelled "Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine" is seen in this illustration taken Jan. 16, 2022. (Reuters/Dado Ruvic/Illustration)

Novavax Guidance

While Younts’ Air Force clients are also protected a July 27 preliminary injunction, the lawyer is sounding the alarm about “a guidance that was sent out to essentially all echelons” of Air Force Command. The guidance was issued in July and is titled “Bullet Background Paper on Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine.”
Earlier this year, the Novavax shot was touted as a vaccine option that “could appeal to pro-life Christian skeptics.” The FDA authorized the Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine for emergency use on July 13.

Younts said it was a vaccine that drew the attention of him and others because it appeared that it was going to be “ethically produced.” As a result, for some of his clients whose primary religious objection to the vaccines was the use of fetal cells in testing and development or in the product itself, Novavax became an option.

“No 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, NVX-CoV2373,” a Novavax spokesperson told The Epoch Times in an email.

But pro-life advocates have pointed to a scientific paper published in October 2020 with multiple authors employed by Novavax, Inc., that includes a comparison between a protein produced by “human embryonic kidney (HEK) 293F cells” to Novavax’s insect-produced protein. The paper found that Novavax’s insect-produced protein had a similar structural integrity to the HEK293-produced protein. The HEK293 cell line was originally extracted from the kidney of an aborted baby girl in 1973.
A Novavax spokesperson denied that this study showed that fetal cell lines were used in the testing process. “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,” a Novavax spokesperson previously told Religion News Service.

Yet pro-life advocates argue that even if Novavax did not use HEK293 in testing, it used knowledge derived from previous testing of the fetal cell line conducted by others.

“What Novavax did felt deceptive,” Younts said, adding that the vaccine maker “took great pains to bury their contract with third-party labs that relied on data from the same fetal cell testing and development that Pfizer and Moderna were using.”

What’s “disturbing” to Younts is that while the Air Force had begun to abide by the July preliminary injunction, senior leadership at the Pentagon and within the Air Force began suggesting that Christians should not have an objection to Novavax, he said.

But his clients, as well as many other military members, objected because “there’s still a tie to fetal cells that people should be aware of,” Younts said. “They can still legally justify their religious objection.”

“Through official court filings, the Department of the Air Force, as well as the DoD and Department of Justice, are on notice that the information about Novavax that the company and the Air Force is pushing out is not accurate,” he said.

“Regardless of whether they are reading the court filings or not, as a party to litigation, the Pentagon and the Air Force are aware, and they’re still pushing out this guidance to commanders through a bullet background paper,” he added. All the while, the paper indicates that “no human fetal cell lines are used to manufacture, test, or produce Novavax vaccine.”

Many of his Air Force, as well as Army clients, have been required to go meet with their respective commanders and medical providers to acknowledge that they have been offered Novavax as “a safe and ethical option,” Younts said. “That is extremely troubling and extremely frustrating,” he added.

“It’s creating a complete absence of trust in military leadership,” he said. “Apart from being offered a non-ethical vaccine, why are [service members] even being offered a EUA product?”

As a result of the alleged injustices committed by the Department of Defense, Younts said he is “grateful for the many other attorneys who are in this fight and remain committed to fighting to protect the constitutional rights of military members in court.”

He said his clients believe “this stand for constitutional rights is not only critical for military readiness it is an important part of protecting the rights of all Americans.”

Younts emphasized that his views do not reflect those of the Department of Defense or the Department of the Air Force. The Pentagon did not return an inquiry from The Epoch Times about the bullet background paper.