The COVID vaccine mandate that is expected to come as early as Friday for 1.3 million service members is facing an outpouring of distrust among some military personnel who are now questioning their rights.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is expected to soon recommend that the COVID vaccine be mandatory for all active-duty forces in the U.S. military – a move that follows President Biden’s requirement for all federal employees to be vaccinated.

Federal employees that do not get vaccinated are subject to regular COVID testing and other measures.

Army lawyer Greg T. Rinckey from the law firm Tully Rinckey has received a flurry of calls about the possible mandate from hundreds of servicemen and women who are wondering about their rights and whether they can take legal action if ordered to get the COVID shot, the Associated Press reported.

Rinckey told the news outlet, “A lot of U.S. troops have reached out to us saying, ‘I don’t want a vaccine that's untested, I'm not sure it's safe, and I don’t trust the government's vaccine. What are my rights?'"

But legal rights for military personnel are limited when it comes to vaccines as they are seen as an essential part of service due to the military’s close living quarters.

Austin is expected to ask Biden to waive the federal law that gives individuals a choice on whether to get the shot or not if the vaccine is not fully licensed, the AP said. Pulling the waiver will also help the government avoid legal battles, which were incurred when it mandated the anthrax shot in the 1990s, which was also not fully approved.

The COVID vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson are not approved and only authorized for emergency use, although Pfizer is expected to receive full approval by early next month from the Food and Drug Administration, the New York Times reported.

But Austin is not expected to wait until the shot receives approval to push the COVID vaccine mandate through for military members, John F. Kirby, a Pentagon spokesperson, said during a news conference on Tuesday, as reported by the Times.

“He’s not going to let grass grow under his feet,” Kirby said. “We’ll have more to say in very short order here.”

To date, more than 1 million service members have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with more than 237,000 receiving at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the Pentagon, as reported by the AP. This represents about 64% of active-duty military members, above the 60% of Americans over the age of 18 who are fully vaccinated, the Times said.

The news of a possible military vaccine mandate comes as the U.S. sees a significant surge in the number of COVID cases as the Delta variant rips through the nation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that the highly contagious variant now comprises 93% of all COVID cases in the nation.

U.S. troops handover to the Iraqi military during a ceremony in Iraq
U.S. Army soldiers from the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, attend a casing of the colors ceremony as they withdraw from Camp Adder, now known as Imam Ali Air Base near Nasiriyah, Iraq, in 2011. Reuters/Mario Tama/Pool