Sailors who were not exempt from taking the COVID-19 vaccination will now have five days to get the first shot. According to a Navy administration message, if sailors do not comply, they will face discharge.
The message was issued by a three-star admiral, the Navy’s head of manpower, personnel, training, and education. It conveys that the lowest discharge rating a sailor refusing vaccination can receive, “without extenuating circumstances, will be GENERAL (under honorable conditions).”
This comes as a result of the direction of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who ordered all military members to get vaccinated. At that time, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro promised to use “the full range of administrative and disciplinary actions” towards sailors who refused vaccinations.
The Navy’s number of vaccinations has steadily risen since then. 96% of active-duty sailors are fully immunized, and 99% have received their first shot. According to the Pentagon, less than 2,000 sailors out of more than 300,000 have refused to receive the shot.
However, the Navy has only exempted six personnel from taking the vaccination, refusing to accept religious waiver requests. The Navy has not approved a religious exemption for any vaccine in at least seven years.
No information has been released about how many exemption requests the Navy has received. Still, personnel may continue serving past the vaccination deadline if they have yet to accept a ruling.
Those sailors could “be temporarily reassigned with the concurrence of the first flag officer in the administrative chain of command based on operational readiness and mission requirements.”
The military has lost 173 people to the pandemic, including active-duty sailors, dependents, and civilian employees. According to the most recent update on COVID-19 in the Navy, “all Navy COVID deaths have been individuals not immunized.”
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