WASHINGTON — The Army outlined its plan today to fully comply with the Secretary of Defense’s order requiring all service members to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Army began implementing the Secretary of Defense’s order on August 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 – 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. Prior to 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. Soldiers pending exemption requests must continue to comply with all other applicable force health protection measures applicable to unvaccinated people.
Soldiers who have completed an FDA Emergency Use Authorization or World Health Organization-authorized series of vaccinations are fully vaccinated. Soldiers are only considered fully vaccinated two weeks post completion of a two-dose series vaccine or two weeks post completion of a single dose 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 in which they serve. The health protection of our force is a top priority, and we will continue to ensure that our personnel have the most up-to-date information on appropriate safety measures to prevent 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.