Hindered by Bureaucracy, Army Civilians Only Have a Few Days to Apply for Vaccine Exemption

By Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.
November 3, 2021 Updated: November 4, 2021

Civilian employees of the U.S. Army are racing against the clock to apply for medical and religious exemptions from mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations because until recently, the Army didn’t have a procedure in place for them to do so.

Some employees call it unfair. Some even suspect that headquarters was intentionally slow to resolve the issue, in order to pressure them into getting vaccinated.

Army civilians need to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 22, although the Pentagon only considers them so 14 days after the final shot. That pushes the deadline to Nov. 8. Those who don’t get the needle or have their exemption paperwork in by the deadline face suspension without pay and eventual termination.

Yet the Army only sent out the “Force Health Protection Guidance” on Nov. 1 to lay out “the process and forms to request medical and/or religious accommodations,” a civilian employee told The Epoch Times on condition of anonymity.

“Unfortunately, it allows members only 4 working days to draft and submit ‘timely’ requests,” the employee said via email. “There remains a slew of punitive actions and processes which are intimidating, unnecessary, and amount to coercion.”

The guidance is dated Oct. 29, but the release that links to it was issued on Nov. 1.

The tight deadline problem only affects civilians, since uniformed Army members have an established procedure to apply for such accommodations, the employee said. Active-duty soldiers have until Dec. 15 to be fully vaccinated.

The employee, who’s also asking for an accommodation, was willing to write off the delay to “bureaucratic ineptitude,” but noted that “blocking those wishing to request accommodations has the effect of placing tremendous strain” on them.

“This, of course, leads some to conclude it is intentional, to force compliance,” the employee said.

When asked about the issue, an Army spokesperson referred The Epoch Times to the text of the guidance (pdf).

The vaccine mandate has been a source of controversy. The novel vaccines, still in the process of clinical trials, are known to cause severe side effects such as myocarditis, mostly in young men, and blood clots, although authorities and experts say these are rare and pose a lower risk than the disease itself. The vaccines don’t prevent individuals from contracting and spreading COVID-19, but clinical trials indicate they minimize symptoms.

Over 90 percent of active-duty Army members had received at least one dose, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said on Nov. 1.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin wants commanders to “execute the mandate with a sense of compassion and understanding,” Kirby said.

“It’s a lawful order, and so he also trusts that commanders will ultimately do what they need to do for the readiness of their unit, and if that comes to doing something of a punitive nature, they certainly have that right and that authority. It’s just that the secretary wants them to exhaust other measures before having to do that.”

Petr Svab
Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.