WASHINGTON – Almost 98% of the active-duty military had received at least one dose of the mandatory COVID-19 vaccine by this week’s shooting deadline, but more than 3,800 troops have flatly refused and may begin to be withdrawn military next month, officials said Thursday.
The largest US military service, however, reported the smallest number of servicemen requesting a religious exemption – just over 1,700 soldiers – compared to the other three smaller services. By comparison, there are more than 4,700 in the Air Force, 3,000 in the Marine Corps and 2,700 in the Navy requesting religious exemptions, according to data released by the services last week. None have yet been approved.
The Pentagon announced earlier this year that the vaccine was mandatory for all military personnel, including the National Guard and the Reserve. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has repeatedly stated that obtaining the vaccine is essential to maintaining a healthy and ready force that can be ready to defend the nation. The Pentagon also weighs make COVID-19 vaccine recalls mandatory for the military.
The military, which totals more than 478,000 active-duty troops, had the last deadline for vaccination among the services for its active-duty troops – Wednesday. And it scored the second highest rate for those who got at least one hit. The Navy leads with over 98%, while the Air Force is at 97.5% and the Marine Corps at 95%.
The other services had earlier deadlines. the The Air Force required vaccines for active duty by November 2, while members of the Navy and Marine Corps had until Nov. 28 to get the blows and their reserve members have until Dec. 28. The Air Force Guard and Reserves had until December 2, and the Army Guard and Reserve Soldiers had until next June.
According to data released by the military, more than 2,700 soldiers who refused the vaccine have already received written reprimands and six soldiers have been dismissed from their leadership positions. The military has said soldiers who refuse the vaccine should not take leadership positions.
Procedures to start offloading those who refuse the vaccine are expected to begin in January, giving the soldiers a little more time to change their minds before they are forced to leave. Students at the US Military Academy at West Point who refuse the vaccine and do not obtain an approved exemption will not be appointed as officers.
the The Air Force said this week it had already fired 27 airmen for refusing to obey a legal order and to be vaccinated against COVID-19, which makes them what officials believe are the first members of the service to be fired for disobeying the shooting warrant.
The airmen were formally dismissed from their duties for non-compliance with an order. It is possible that some had other infractions in their records, but all had vaccine refusal as part of their discharge.
Overall, the military said more than 6,200 troops were seeking some sort of temporary or permanent exemption, including 641 medical requests and 1,746 religious requests.
Of these 6,200 requests, nearly 3,900 were granted temporary waivers. Four were granted permanent medical exemption. Temporary exemptions can be for a variety of reasons, ranging from medical reasons, such as pregnancy, to administrative reasons, such as someone retiring or being in a remote location where there are no readily available vaccines.
Across the military, the response to the vaccine mirrored that of society as a whole, with thousands of members requesting exemptions or refusing the vaccines. But overall, the percentage of troops – especially active-duty members – who were promptly fired upon exceeds nationwide numbers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 72% of the American population aged 18 or older has received at least one injection.
Members of the US military are already expected to receive up to 17 vaccines, depending on where they are deployed. The requirements – which include smallpox, hepatitis, polio and influenza vaccines – also provide for a number of temporary and permanent exemptions for medical or administrative reasons.
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