Army to start kicking out soldiers who refuse COVID shot

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Army to start kicking out soldiers who refuse COVID shot

The US Army said Wednesday it will “immediately” begin booting soldiers who refuse to comply with the Pentagon’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.​

The so-called “involuntary separation” directive, announced by Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth, ​would apply to the regular Army, the Army National Guard, and members of the US Army Reserve serving on active duty for more than 30 days.

The order also applies to cadets at the US Military Academy at West Point and the Senior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. It does not apply to soldiers who have approved exemptions on medical, administrative or religious grounds — nor does it apply to those whose exemption claims are under review.

“Army readiness depends on soldiers who are prepared to train, deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars,” Wormuth said in a statement.

Army soldiers from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, prepare Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines to inoculate people at the Miami Dade College North Campus on March 09, 2021 in North Miami, Florida.
The vaccine mandate does not apply to soldiers who have approved exemptions on medical, administrative or religious grounds.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

“Unvaccinated soldiers present risk to the force and jeopardize readiness. We will begin involuntary separation proceedings for ​soldiers who refuse the vaccine order and are not pending a final decision on an exemption​,” she added. ​

Commanders have been ordered to remove unvaccinated soldiers from the ranks “immediately” and as “expeditiously as possible.”

Soldiers who are removed from the service because they refuse the vaccine “will not be eligible for involuntary separation pay and may be subject to recoupment of any unearned special or incentive pays,” according to the directive.

Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth and U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville
The “involuntary separation” directive was announced by Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Those scheduled to retire before July 1 were given a temporary exemption. 

A soldier whose exemption request is denied will have seven days to begin the vaccine regimen or submit a final appeal. 

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced vaccine mandates for all military members in August, allowing each branch of the service to establish their own deadlines for compliance.

Members of U.S. Air Force prepare to receive the first round of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at Osan Air Base on December 29, 2020
Members of US Air Force prepare to receive the first round of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at Osan Air Base on December 29, 2020.
United States Forces Korea via Getty Images

The Army set a Dec. 15 deadline. 

“​​​Service members are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after completing the second dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine or two weeks after receiving a single dose of a one-dose vaccine,​”​​ Austin said at the time. ​

As of Jan. 26, ​commanders have relieved a total of six regular Army leaders, including two battalion commanders, and issued 3,073 general officer written reprimands to ​soldiers for refusing ​to comply with the COVID-19 mandate. 

The Army says 96 percent of its active members are vaccinated, as are 79 percent of those serving in the Army Reserve. 

It has approved six medical exemptions out of 709 requests, but no religious exemptions out of 2,910 requests.

In total, there have been 3,350 exemption refusals.

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