The U.S. Army issued its plan on Sept. 14 on how it intends to fully implement the Defense Secretary’s order requiring all service members receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Army began implementing the Secretary of Defense’s order on Aug, 24, following DOD and White House guidance. Before then, vaccines had been optional.
“This is quite literally a matter of life and death for our Soldiers, their families, and the communities in which we live,” said Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle, the U.S. Army Surgeon General. “Case counts and deaths continue to be concerning as the Delta variant spreads, which makes protecting the force through mandatory vaccination a health and readiness priority for the total Army.”
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 ñ to include relief of duties or discharge. Soldiers have the ability to request an exemption from receiving the vaccine if they have a legitimate medical, religious, or administrative reason. Soldiers who are pending exemption requests will not be subject to adverse actions until the exemption is fully processed.
Commanders, command sergeants major, first sergeants, and officers in Command Select List (CSL) positions who refuse to be vaccinated — and are not pending an exemption request — face suspension and relief if they refuse to comply. Before any adverse action, each would be notified of the suspension and potential relief from their duties. They would then be counseled and provided the opportunity to be vaccinated before they would become subject to removal from their positions by a general officer.
Officers and noncommissioned officers who have been selected and are waiting to assume CSL command. Key billet, or nominative sergeant major positions — some of the most coveted assignments in the Army — will likewise be subject to removal. From the list for those assignments should they refuse to be vaccinated without a pending or approved exemption.
Commanders will request a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand be initiated for any Soldier who refuses to be vaccinated and does not have a pending or approved exemption request. Such reprimands can be career-ending.
Active-duty units are expected to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 15, 2021, and Reserve and National Guard units are expected to be fully vaccinated by June 30, 2022.
Soldiers may request administrative or medical exemptions as outlined in Army Regulation 600-20 and AR 40-562. As well as the new Army Directive 2021-33 that provides supplementary guidance on exemption requests.
Soldiers with previous COVID-19 infections are not automatically exempt from full vaccination and should consult their primary care managers. The soldiers pending exemption requests must continue to comply with all other applicable force health protection measures for unvaccinated people.
Soldiers who complete an FDA Emergency Use Authorization or World Health Organization-authorized series of vaccinations are fully vaccinated. It’s these soldiers that are considered fully vaccinated two weeks post completion of a single dose vaccine or two-dose series vaccine.
In addition to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate and following CDC and DoD guidance. Army commanders will continue to update health protection protocols consistent with the local conditions of the communities they serve. The health protection of our force is a top priority; we will continue to ensure that our personnel has the most up-to-date information. On appropriate safety measures to prevent the potential spread of the virus.
Soldiers with questions about the safety, effectiveness, and possible side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine. Should discuss them with their health care provider.