Vaccine refusers will be soon be out of the U.S. Army, but fortunately they don’t have many.

In a statement published by Christine Wormuth, Secretary of the Army on Sunday, January 31, soldiers who have continued to refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will be discharged from the military. In the case of officers, ‘Separation for Misconduct, Moral or Professional Dereliction,’ will be recorded as the reason, effective immediately. Enlisted personnel will be given an Honorable or General separation, which is not a career mark against them. No one separated under this policy will be eligible for re-enlistment at any point, or for any severance pay. Soldiers still in basic training who received signing bonuses may be required to repay those.

If qualified, vaccine refusers will be allowed to retire instead of being discharged, provided they retire before July 1st.

The Marine Corps, Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard have already discharged all active-duty or entering personnel who are vaccine refusers, about 600 service members collectively. This is the Army’s first bout of discharges. According to data released last week, under 3,400 of the 481,254 active duty personnel will be affected. Over 97 percent of soldiers are fully vaccinated. A further 3,000 have requested exemptions.

Compulsory vaccination is not new to the armed forces. Prior to COVID-19, the U.S. Army required 17 vaccines on top of the ordinary ones expected to be received in childhood. Vaccines in their testing stages are frequently administered to soldiers, as well, as no vaccines have ever been identified to have risks greater than their benefits.

“Army readiness depends on soldiers who are prepared to train, deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars,” Wormuth said. “Unvaccinated soldiers present risk to the force and jeopardize readiness. We will begin involuntary separation proceedings for Soldiers who refuse the vaccine order and are not pending a final decision on an exemption.”

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