The US Navy said on Thursday that personnel who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will be expelled from the force before the November 28 deadline for injections.
“While the COVID-19 vaccines are now mandatory for all military members, the Navy has announced plans to begin processing for discharged individuals who refuse vaccination without pending or approved exemptions,” a statement said. We do.”
It was the first clear indication by the Pentagon of what would happen to service members who declined vaccines, which became mandatory in late August.
Until now, military officials were reluctant to answer what would happen to those who refused to vaccinate.
The Navy said 98 percent of its 350,000 active members had started or completed the vaccination process.
For the US military overall, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday that of the approximately 1.4 million active duty personnel, 96.7 percent had received at least one dose, and 83.7 percent had received two doses.
Including military stockpiles, however, the level was just 80 percent with at least one dose.
If all services take the same hard line that the Navy is taking, it risks losing 46,000 soldiers, although possibly more will accept vaccinations before the deadline.
The naval force has been hit by 164 coronavirus deaths since the pandemic began, Vice Admiral John Nowell, the chief of naval personnel, said.
Of them, 144 were not immunized, while the status of the other 20 was unclear.
Those expelled for refusing a vaccine would receive a normal honorable discharge, but could lose some benefits or in some cases be forced to pay the cost of training and education, the statement said.
Navy personnel who may claim exemption from mandatory vaccines for health or other reasons may be reassigned from their current duties.
The Navy has been particularly vulnerable to pandemics, due to the risk that a single COVID case could infect an entire ship or submarine at sea, putting it out of action.
Last year the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt was hit by an outbreak that infected around a quarter of its 4,800 crew, forcing the warship to remain in port on Guam for several weeks to disinfect.
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