The Army will require all of its active duty soldiers to complete their full COVID-19 vaccinations by the middle of December.
The implementation plan is in response to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s Aug. 24 orders that all active duty service members must get vaccinated.
Army Reserve and Army National Guard units must be vaccinated by the end of next June. In total, more than a million soldiers are required to get the shot. Under the policy, those who have previously had COVID must still get vaccinated.
“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 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 who refuse vaccinations without an exemption will be reprimanded.
“Such reprimands can be career ending,” a Tuesday release from the Army states. “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. Soldiers have the ability to request an exemption from receiving the vaccine, if they have a legitimate medical, religious or administrative reason. Soldiers who are pending exemption requests will not be subject to adverse actions until the exemption is fully processed.”
Soldiers in leadership positions who refuse the vaccine will be relieved and those waiting for a position will lose their billets or assignments.
The military saw its deadliest month from coronavirus in August after 11 service members died from the disease. In total 43 service members have died from the virus.
As of Sept. 8, more than 233,000 service members have been infected with COVID-19. Nearly 81,000 of those have been soldiers and 38,620 have been members of the National Guard.
About 414,800 soldiers are already fully vaccinated. Nearly 192,000 are partially vaccinated.
The Air Force already released its vaccination implementation place. The service is requiring all active duty airmen and guardians to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 2.
Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard members must be vaccinated by Dec. 2.
“We are taking an aggressive approach to protect our service members, their families and their communities from COVID-19 and the highly transmissible delta variant,” said Air Force Undersecretary Gina Ortiz Jones. “As members of the nation’s Armed Forces, our airmen and guardians must be able to respond to situations around the globe — being fully vaccinated will help us safely meet the readiness requirements that our national security depends on.”
Only Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccines will be available through military providers, since that is the sole vaccine that has full approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
Service members may get other vaccines and still meet the requirements, however those vaccines are still only approved under the federal emergency-use authorization.
Some service members are already pushing back on the vaccination requirements.
Last month, a soldier and a marine filed a lawsuit against the government challenging the mandatory vaccine. They both asked for a restraining order to keep them from having to take the shot.
A judge denied that order stating the FDA approved the vaccine and that millions of citizens have taken the shot without any dangerous side effects.