COVID-19 vaccine

COVID-19 vaccine

Soldiers who refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine and have not requested an exemption will no longer be allowed to re-enlist or be promoted, the Department of the Army has ordered.

That applies to active-duty troops as well as reservists and National Guardsmen, including those serving in states whose governors do not require the vaccine. 

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who doesn’t like vaccine mandates, is urging Alaska National Guard troops to file for exemptions, according to Patty Sullivan, a spokesperson for the governor.

Army Secretary Christine Wormuth announced the Army policy in a Nov. 16 order. Troops’ service records will be flagged the day they make their final vaccine refusal, which follows a meeting with a medical professional and a second order to get vaccinated. According to Defense One magazine, this flag will bar them from being promoted, reenlisting, continuing to receive enlistment bonuses, attending service-related schools, or receiving tuition assistance.

“I authorize commanders to impose bars to continued service…for all soldiers who refuse the mandatory vaccine order without an approved exemption or pending exemption request,” Wormuth wrote in the order.

“The soldier will remain flagged until they are fully vaccinated, receive an approved medical or administrative exemption, or are separated from the Army.” 

The issue of vaccinating the force, including the hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the Army National Guard, has come to a head in recent days. Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt has rebuffed President Joe Biden’s directive that all federal employees, including troops in uniform, be vaccinated, and his state’s adjutant general has told Oklahoma National Guardsmen that they need not comply with the directive. 

Alaska’s governor has made similar comments.

About 77 percent of the total Army—active duty, Reserve, and Guard—has received at least one shot, and 72 percent are completely vaccinated, according to the latest data provided by Army spokesman Lt. Col. Terence Kelley. Many of the unvaccinated soldiers are in the National Guard or reserves. Only 51.84 percent of the Army National Guard is fully vaccinated; 60.72 percent have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to data provided to Defense One by the National Guard. There are 329,709 Army National Guardsmen serving in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. 

It has been unclear whether the Pentagon could force Guardsmen, who serve under both federal and state control, to be vaccinated if the governors they serve do not require a vaccine. 

Defense One magazine contributed to this report

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