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Navy has discharged nearly 2,000 sailors for refusing COVID vaccine

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III briefs the media on Afghanistan, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Aug. 18, 2021. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
October 31, 2022

The number of U.S. Navy sailors released from service for refusing COVID vaccination is nearing 2,000.

A total of 1,893 sailors have been “separated” for refusing the COVID vaccine, according to the Navy’s latest report. That’s 180 more than were reported last month, according to USNI News.

More than 81 percent of those released so far have been active-duty sailors and 17 percent have been reservists, all of whom were honorably discharged.

This news comes as lawmakers demand to know when the military-wide mandate will end, and the Navy faces a class action lawsuit over the mandate from within its own ranks, with plaintiffs including more than two dozen SEALs.

An injunction in the class action case keeps the Navy’s vaccine refusers from being punished as long as they file for a religious exemption. Requests for those have been made by 3,318 active-duty sailors and 859 reservists.

Oral testimony in the case is scheduled to begin the week of Feb. 6, 2023 in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, USNI News reported.

The Navy has granted 28 permanent medical exemptions to active-duty sailors and reservists, as well as 221 temporary medical exemptions. 

Almost 2,500 active-duty sailors remain to be vaccinated, while more than 390,000 Navy service members have been fully vaccinated since that was made mandatory throughout the military in late 2021, according to a DoD dashboard.

The Marine Corps has let go of even more vaccine refusers than the Navy. That branch has discharged 3,511 Marines to date, according to its October report. 

In the Army, 1,777 active-duty soldiers have been separated amid a 97 percent rate of full vaccination, according to the branch’s October report.

The Air Force hasn’t reported a separation total since its July report, when 834 service members had been discharged.

The Department of Defense has administered more than 8.7 million doses of COVID vaccines, according to the dashboard.