Civilians may take any of the three approved vaccines. The memo outlines the latest dates employees can get their first and second shots in order to be in compliance with the directive.
Some workers may qualify for medical or religious exemptions; DoD plans to release those details soon. The memo does not outline what will happen to employees who refuse to get the shot. The military services’ first course of action after a refusal has been to have that person receive counseling from a medical professional.
Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, commended the decision.
“The Department of Defense’s decision to require COVID-19 vaccination by Nov. 22 for the Department’s civilian workforce will save lives and further protect communities across the United States from this deadly virus,” he wrote. “This guidance for civilian employees of the Department also builds on progress to protect U.S. service members from COVID-19 by making vaccination mandatory across the entire force. This is the right decision for our public health and our national security.”
DoD employs more than 700,000 civilian workers. According to the DoD COVID resource page, which was last updated on Sept. 29, about 318,000 DoD civilians are already fully vaccinated. Another 46,600 are partially vaccinated.
The DoD policy comes from President Joe Biden’s Sept. 9 executive order mandating all federal employees get the vaccine.
“I have determined that ensuring the health and safety of the federal workforce and the efficiency of the civil service requires immediate action to protect the federal workforce and individuals interacting with the federal workforce,” the order states. “It is essential that federal employees take all available steps to protect themselves and avoid spreading COVID-19 to their coworkers and members of the public. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that the best way to do so is to be vaccinated.”
The order left the timeline to the discretion of each agency.
DoD already mandated that all service members get their vaccinations. The Air Force is requiring all airmen and guardians to be fully inoculated by Nov. 2. The Army is giving its soldiers more time, requiring the vaccine by mid-December. Guard and reserve will have until next June.
Soldiers who refuse vaccinations without an exemption will be reprimanded.
“Such reprimands can be career ending,” a 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.”