The U.S. Army announced on Tuesday that all active soldiers must receive a COVID-19 vaccination by Dec. 15.
“This is quite literally a matter of life and death for our Soldiers, their families and the communities in which we live,” Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle, the U.S. Army surgeon general, said in a statement distributed by Army Public Affairs.
“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,” Dingle said.
“Soldiers have the ability to request an exemption from receiving the vaccine, if they have a legitimate medical, religious or administrative reason,” the statement added.
Refusal to comply could have serious consequences, the statement declared:
“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,” it stated.
NBC News reported Tuesday that Reserve and National Guard units are expected to be fully vaccinated by June 30, 2022. There are 485,000 serving on active duty in the Army, 189,500 in the Reserve and 336,000 in the National Guard.
In July, Fort Rucker, an Alabama military base, became the first in the nation to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination due to a rise in infection rates rise across the state.
“Due to the rising rates in the counties around us and some on Fort Rucker, we’re now implementing G.O. number 12,” Maj. Gen. David Francis said in a video on Fort Rucker’s official Facebook page.
“The big difference is going to be that if you are not wearing a mask, the leadership will be able to ask you, ask soldiers, to prove that they’ve been vaccinated by showing their vaccination card,” he added.
In April, President Joe Biden said he was undecided on whether to require U.S. military personnel to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I think you’re going to see more and more of them getting it.”
“And I think it’s going to be a tough call as to whether or not they should be required to get it in the military, because you’re [in] such close proximity with other military personnel,” the president added.
At that time, more than 35 percent of Marines who have had the opportunity to get vaccinated had chosen not to do so, the military said.
“The Marine Corps said that as of April 23, approximately 93,500 Marines had received the COVID-19 vaccine while 52,900 Marines have declined a shot, or about 36 percent,” according to Reuters.
A group of Democratic lawmakers demanded in March that Biden require all U.S. military personnel get vaccinated.
At the time, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby “confirmed the military’s top brass was weighing a mandatory vaccination order,” according to Politico.
“Obviously, we’re thinking about what happens when they become FDA-approved,” Kirby added.
Since then, Food and Drug Administration has approved vaccines produced by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
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