Some Service Members Say They Were ‘Coerced’ Into Taking COVID-19 Vaccine: Survey

Twenty out of 30 individuals who admitted taking the vaccine claim they were injured by the vaccine.
Some Service Members Say They Were ‘Coerced’ Into Taking COVID-19 Vaccine: Survey
A soldier watches another soldier receive his COVID-19 vaccination from Army Preventative Medical Services in Fort Knox, Ky., on Sept. 9, 2021. (Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

More than 72 percent of individuals serving in the U.S. military who responded to an Epoch Times survey said they felt “coerced” into receiving a COVID-19 vaccine and/or booster after the Pentagon’s 2021 vaccine mandate.

The participants in the survey, conducted last fall, came from all branches of the military and included enlisted and officer ranks responded to the survey. The average time served in the military was about 16 years.

Out of the 229 participants, 169 were active duty service members. Eighty-seven percent, or 199, were unvaccinated against COVID-19. Of the 30 who were vaccinated, only two said they had wanted to do it.

Twenty out of 30 individuals who acknowledged taking a COVID-19 vaccine claim they were injured by it. Ninety-three percent of the participants said they know someone they believe has been injured by one.

Part of the anonymous questionnaire addressed the COVID-19 vaccine status of the participating service member, various details about the now-rescinded mandate, as well as the deliberate coercion faced by many who opposed it.

Two of the survey’s participants spoke to The Epoch Times; they used pseudonyms out of concern about reprisals. Both emphasized that their views don’t reflect those of the Department of Defense (DOD), or the Department of the Army and Department of the Air Force, respectively.


Officer Alvin Johnson (a pseudonym) is a 20-year combat veteran of the Army, with multiple deployments around the world. He opposed vaccine mandate brought in by the DOD in August 2021.

“I’m not a lab rat and neither are the people I work with,” he told The Epoch Times.

Officer Johnson was among the participants who believe the vaccines shouldn’t have been mandated. About 95 percent said the mandate was unlawful.

“While holding out [from taking the vaccines], I was forced to wear a mask and was often singled out for being unvaccinated,” he said. Bringing these concerns to his command, “I was simply told: ‘I don’t make the rules.’” Threats that would negatively affect his personal life and career soon followed.

If he hadn’t gotten vaccinated, he would have been prohibited from coming home to see his family. At the time, his wife was at risk of a serious medical concern that could require his presence at a moment’s notice.

“You can see I had no choice but to take the shot,” he said. “At the same time I would be prevented from being with my wife, my orders to deploy were also being threatened.”

Like Officer Johnson, a majority of survey participants said they were “coerced” into receiving a vaccine and/or boosters. Nearly 95 percent of those who objected to the mandate said they faced reprisals, including verbal threats of punitive legal action, loss of promotion, and exclusion from career-enhancing schools.

Officer Johnson reluctantly took the first round of vaccine at a local pharmacy chain store.

After the mandate was rescinded in January 2023, Officer Johnson still faced roadblocks to his career advancement.

“With a general officer memorandum of reprimand in my record for initially refusing the vaccine, I was not promoted to a higher rank,” he said.

“Even though I have since taken the vaccine, I’m losing monthly income and hundreds of thousands of dollars over my lifetime in retirement pay for not being able to promote.”

Almost half of the participants in the survey said they were also “financially harmed by noncompliance” with the mandate.

Officer Johnson said he knows others in a similar predicament, including some who were forced to retire or separate from the Army long before finishing their career. Nearly 90 percent of the survey’s participants said they know someone who was separated or forced to leave military service because of the mandate.

“Like many of them, I’ve been shot at and deployed [to a combat zone] by an organization that turned on me, and that has caused quite a bit of emotional and psychological trauma,” he said. “Having spent my adult life in service to my country, my experience has been absolutely destructive to my morale and physical well-being.”

Calls for Accountability

Master Sgt. Asher Grove (a pseudonym) has served in the Air Force for nearly 20 years. While investigating the COVID-19 vaccines, he said, he identified potential adverse risks that were never made known to service members.

According to the survey, only 3 percent were informed by qualified medical personnel of known risks associated with the vaccines, including damage to reproductive health for females and increased risk of heart disease.

With past immunizations, he was given “a fact sheet,” he said. With a pre-existing health concern and guidance from God, he adamantly opposed receiving any COVID-19 vaccine.

After both his religious accommodation and medical exemption requests were denied, he was “slapped with a letter of reprimand.”

“This was the only real coercion I faced, that I’d get continue to get in trouble for taking objection to the vaccine,” he said.

Ultimately, it was an appeals court in Ohio that upheld an injunction to protect members of the Air Force from being punished for refusing the vaccines that prevented any further negative impact on his career. Sadly, he said, many other service members were forced to retire or separate prior to the injunction.

“DOD leaders should be held accountable in the manner [the mandate] was enforced,” he said. All 229 participants of the survey agreed with that proposition.

“Trust in leadership suffered greatly when people were forced to do something they should have never been forced to do.

“Having witnessed so many people oppose the vaccine for religious concern and more, I was able to witness the greatest battle I’ve seen in my life.

“It wasn’t a battle fought on a foreign field, but it was a battle against good and evil in our own country.”

For him, the rescission of the vaccine mandate in January 2023 was “a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done so this never happens again.”

The DOD, Department of the Army, and Department of the Air Force didn’t respond by press time to requests by The Epoch Times for comment.