WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- The US Army said active-duty soldiers who will not be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by Dec. 15 could be suspended or dismissed.
- The Army Surgeon General said it’s “a matter of life and death for our Soldiers, their families and the communities in which we live.”
- Soldiers could request an exemption on valid medical, religious or administrative grounds.
U.S. Army soldiers who refuse to be vaccinated against Covid-19 could be suspended from their duties and possibly discharged, the U.S. Army said on Tuesday.
Following the full authorization of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in August by the Food and Drug Administration, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had ordered that all active duty service members must get vaccinated.
The Army’s active units are expected to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 15, and its Reserve and National Guard units by June 30, 2022.
According to the Army, the implementation of this order started in late August. It noted that soldiers could request an exemption based on valid medical, religious, or administrative grounds.
In a statement, the Army said that high-ranking officials who refused to comply could face administrative or nonjudicial punishment. Commanders, command sergeants major, first sergeants, and officers in Command Select List positions who refuse to get the Covid-19 vaccine and do not have an exemption request would be suspended and relieved.
“While soldiers who refuse the vaccine will first be counseled by their chain of command and medical providers, continued failure to comply could result in administrative or non-judicial punishment – to include relief of duties or discharge,” the Army said.
U.S. Army Surgeon General Raymond Scott Dingle said, “This is quite literally a matter of life and death for our soldiers, their families and the communities in which we live,” referring to the current surge in coronavirus cases fueled by the highly transmissible Delta variant.
As of this writing, the U.S. Department of Defense had reported more than 361,000 COVID-19 cases across its personnel and more than 470 deaths.