By Harry Wilmerding
The U.S. Army announced Tuesday that all active-duty members must be fully vaccinated by Dec. 15, and those who refuse could face suspension or dismissal.
“While 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,” the Army guidelines said.
The Army started implementing the vaccine mandate on Aug. 24 after the Department of Defense (DOD) required all active duty service members to get the shot. Reserve and National Guard members are required to get the vaccine by June 30, 2022.
Troops can seek exemptions for the vaccine if they have a legitimate medical, administrative or religious reason, according to the guidelines.
Active-duty service members in the @USArmy have 3 months to complete their vaccinations.
— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) September 14, 2021
“This is quite literally a matter of life and death for our Soldiers, their families, and the communities in which we live,” the U.S. Army Surgeon General, Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle, said in the guidelines.
“Case counts and deaths continue to be concerning as the Delta variant spreads, which makes protecting the force through mandatory vaccination and readiness priority for the total Army,” Dingle said.
The DOD reported 353,000 COVID-19 cases and 455 deaths across its personnel as of Sept. 8, according to data from the department’s website. The percentage of military members with at least one shot jumped to 83% from 76% since the Pentagon issued its vaccine mandate on Aug. 24.
The Army is the last branch of the military to issue vaccination guidelines, according to The New York Times. Navy and Marine active members must be fully vaccinated within 90 days of Aug. 30, and Air Force active-duty troops are required to be fully immunized by Nov. 2.
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