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Nearly 3,000 US Army soldiers punished for refusing COVID-19 vaccine

Spc. Joshua Ryan, medic, 16th Special Troops Battalion, 16th Sustainment Brigade, administers the influenza vaccine. (U.S. Army photo/Released)
January 14, 2022

The United States Army has formally reprimanded nearly 3,000 soldiers who have refused to take the COVID-19 vaccine despite the Pentagon’s mandate.

According to an Army press release published this week, 2,994 soldiers were issued general officer written reprimands for refusing the vaccination order.

The service said 97 percent of active-duty soldiers have taken at least one dose of a vaccine, leaving roughly 9,500 members who have not taken the vaccine, including 5,921 who have requested temporary exemptions and 3,611 who have simply refused to take the vaccine.

“As of January 11, the Army has not involuntarily separated any Soldiers solely for refusing the lawful order to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” the Army said in a statement. “As previously announced, this month Army officials intend to issue further guidance for the mandatory initiation of separation for Soldiers who refuse this lawful order.”

The percentage of soldiers who are either partially or completely vaccinated drops to 78 percent in the Army Reserve.

As of January 11, the Army has approved just five of the 653 medical exemption requests and has disapproved 595. Of the 2,128 religious exemption requests, the Army has not approved a single applicant and has disapproved 162.

The U.S. Marine Corps announced on Thursday it had approved its first two religious exemptions to the military-wide COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Those two religious exemptions are the first to be granted across the entire military since the start of President Joe Biden’s military-wide COVID-19 vaccination order.

In an emailed statement, the Marine Corps revealed it has received 3,350 requests for religious exemption for the COVID-19 vaccine and has processed 3,212 requests, now with two requests approved.

In response to an American Military News’ request for comment, Capt. Andrew Wood, a spokesman for the Marines, said this is the first time the service has approved a religious exemption for vaccination in 10 years.

The Marine Corps is the only branch to have approved a religious exemption so far. The U.S. Air Force has approved none of about 4,900 requests it has received and the U.S. Navy has approved none of about 3,700 requests it has received.

Earlier this month, the Navy announced in a service-wide COVID-19 response update that 20 sailors had been separated as of Jan. 5. The service described the action as Entry Level Separations (ELS), indicating all 20 service members were separated during initial training periods within their first 180 days of active duty. No additional sailors have been separated at this time.