The U.S. Army announced Tuesday a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for soldiers was being implemented, and warned that members who refuse could be subject to “relief of duties” or “discharge.”
The Army began implementing the secretary of defense’s order last month, following full approval of Pfizer’s two-dose shot by the Food and Drug Administration. Before then, COVID-19 vaccines had been optional.
Active-duty units are now expected to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 15, 2021, and reserve and National Guard units are expected to be fully vaccinated by June 30, 2022.
Soldiers may request administrative or medical exemptions.
Soldiers who refuse the vaccine without an exemption could face administrative or non-judicial punishment – to include relief of duties or discharge, a release from the Army stated. They will first be counseled by their chain of command and medical providers.
Additionally, commanders, command sergeants major, first sergeants and officers in Command Select List (CSL) positions who refuse to be vaccinated and are not pending an exemption request face suspension and relief if they refuse to comply.
According to the Pentagon, more than 1.3 million troops are on active duty and close to 800,000 are in the Guard and reserve. As of Sept. 8, more than 1.1 million service members were fully vaccinated and nearly 297,000 more had received at least one shot, according to the Defense Department.