All active-duty soldiers in the U.S. Army must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by December 15 or they could be kicked out of the military, the U.S. Army said in an email to American Military News on Tuesday. Reserve and National Guard units must be fully vaccinated by June 30, 2022.
The Army said it will “fully comply” with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s order requiring all troops to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
According to the Army, soldiers who reject the vaccine will initially go through counseling with their chain of command and medical personnel, but continued refusal “could result in administrative or non-judicial punishment” including “relief of duties or discharge.”
Troops who have “legitimate medical, religious or administrative” reasons can request an exemption from the military-wide mandate. Those who have pending requests will not be subject to adverse action until the exemption is fully processed.
“Commanders will request a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand be initiated for any Soldier who refuses to be vaccinated and does not have a pending or approved exemption request. Such reprimands can be career ending,” the email stated.
Troops who have previously contracted COVID-19 are not automatically exempt from the vaccine mandate and are asked to “consult their primary care managers.”
“This is quite literally a matter of life and death for our Soldiers, their families and the communities in which we live,” said Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle, the U.S. Army Surgeon General. “Case counts and deaths continue to be concerning as the Delta variant spreads, which makes protecting the force through mandatory vaccination a health and readiness priority for the total Army.”
Soldiers are considered full vaccinated when they are two weeks past receiving an FDA Emergency Use Authorization or World Health Organization-authorized series of vaccinations.
“In addition to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate and following CDC and DoD guidance, Army commanders will continue to update health protection protocols consistent with the local conditions of the communities in which they serve,” the Army stated. “The health protection of our force is a top priority, and we will continue to ensure that our personnel have the most up-to-date information on appropriate safety measures to prevent potential spread of the virus.”
This week, Navy offensive assistant coach Billy Ray Stutzmann was fired for refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine despite filing for a religious exemption, according to a statement posted by Stutzmann on Monday.
“After applying for a religious exemption and attempting to further negotiate alternative working arrangements, I was ultimately relieved of my duties here at Navy,” Stutzmann wrote.