The United States Army announced today that 468,459 active-component Soldiers have been vaccinated against COVID-19, fewer than 120 days after a vaccination mandate went into effect for all U.S. service members. That number represents 98 percent of the active-duty force who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 96 percent – a total of 461,209 Soldiers – are fully vaccinated. The Army is still processing thousands of exemption requests for those seeking medical or administrative exemptions, including religious exemptions.
The service established Dec. 15 as the goal for all Soldiers in active-duty Army units to be vaccinated.
“Vaccinating our Soldiers against COVID-19 is first and foremost about Army readiness,” said Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth. “Thank you to the medical staff who have been supporting the pandemic response at home and to the vaccinated Soldiers who put the health and welfare of their fellow Soldiers and families first. To those who continue to refuse the vaccine and are not pending a final decision on a medical or administrative exemption, I strongly encourage you to get the vaccine. If not, we will begin involuntary separation proceedings.”
Currently, Soldiers who refuse the order to be vaccinated without an approved or pending exemption request may be subject to adverse administrative action. Beginning in January, Army commanders will initiate involuntary separation for the less than one percent of active component Soldiers who continue to refuse the vaccination order without an approved or pending exemption.
To date, Army commanders have relieved a total of six active-duty leaders, including two battalion commanders, and issued 2,767 general officer written reprimands to Soldiers for refusing the vaccination order.
Army policy allows Soldiers to submit requests for temporary (up to 365 days) or permanent medical exemptions through medical channels. Soldiers may also request an administrative exemption from the vaccine requirement. Administrative exemptions include request for religious accommodations.
To date, 6,263 active-duty Soldiers have temporary medical or administrative exemptions. This category also includes Soldiers who have requested permanent exemptions and are pending final disposition of their requests.
Army officials have approved four permanent medical exemptions and no religious accommodations.
Army officials review each request on an individual basis to determine whether an exemption is appropriate. Medical requests are reviewed primarily by healthcare providers, while religious accommodation requests include interviews with the Soldier’s chaplain, recommendations from the chain of command, as well as a public health and a legal review.
The Army has received 621 requests for permanent medical exemptions. In addition to the four already approved, 101 are currently being reviewed, and 516 have been disapproved. Army policy allows Soldiers to appeal disapproved medical requests to the Army Surgeon General, who has received 229 appeals, disapproved 154 and is still reviewing 75.
The Army has received 1,746 religious accommodation requests. Of these, 85 have been officially disapproved, and 1,661 remain in the review process. Soldiers may appeal disapproved religious accommodations to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. Two disapproved requests for religious accommodation have been appealed. Soldiers with approved or pending exemption requests will not be subjected to adverse administrative action.
Commanders reported that 3,864 active-duty Soldiers, less than one percent of the active force, have refused the vaccination order without a pending or approved exemption.
Army officials noted that an additional 23 Soldiers have no recorded vaccination status, a figure that includes Soldiers who are separating from the service, such as those on terminal leave at the end of their contracts, or who have joined the service but not yet arrived to a duty station where they can receive the vaccine.
The Army also announced that starting this month, U.S. Military Academy and U.S. Army Senior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or receive an approved permanent exemption to be commissioned as officers in the U.S. Army. Following graduation, cadets who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and have not received an approved exemption will be placed in an appropriate leave of absence status consistent with Army policy.
Approximately 83 percent of Soldiers across all Army components have received at least one dose or are completely vaccinated. Additional information about exemptions for Reserve and Guard Soldiers will be released next summer as they reach their goal to have all Soldiers vaccinated by June 30, 2022.
As the Army works to vaccinate every Soldier, it continues to support the federal COVID-19 response. Since March 2020, more than 6,000 Army medical professionals have supported the federal response, deploying to hospitals and vaccination sites around the country.