US Soldiers Who Refuse COVID-19 Vaccine Told They’ll Face Punishment

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news and stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.
November 20, 2021 Updated: November 21, 2021

U.S. Army members who don’t get a COVID-19 vaccine will be blocked from being promoted and could eventually be ousted from the service, according to a new memorandum from a top Army official.

Soldiers who refuse to get vaccinated, as they were directed to do in a September order, will be “flagged,” Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth said in a recent memo obtained by The Epoch Times. That means they won’t be able to reenlist, be promoted, apply for or receive tuition assistance, or be reassigned.

The new guidance applies to soldiers who remain unvaccinated and haven’t received an exemption or still have an exemption request pending.

The Army hasn’t approved a religious exemption request from vaccination requirements since at least 2019, according to recent court documents. It’s unclear how many people have been granted temporary or permanent medical exemptions.

Approximately 5 percent of active-duty personnel remain unvaccinated. Four in 10 Army Reserve members and Army National Guard personnel haven’t taken a COVID-19 vaccine, an Army spokesman and National Guard spokeswoman told The Epoch Times in emails on Nov. 20.

Army officials announced in the Sept. 14 vaccination order that only two actions could be taken against soldiers who refused to comply with the order: the initiation of a letter of reprimand, which could have “very serious consequences,” and a flag that suspends “favorable personnel actions,” including promotion.

“The Army’s updated guidance extends the flagging action until the soldier is fully vaccinated, receives an approved medical or administrative exemption, or is separated from the Army. Commanders are also authorized to now impose bars to continued service for unvaccinated soldiers who are not pending final decision on an exemption request,” an Army spokesman told The Epoch Times in an email.

The memo comes after Brig. Gen. Thomas Mancino, Oklahoma’s adjutant general, issued an order stating that no National Guard troops in the state are required to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Pentagon officials later said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s vaccine order overrides those orders issued at the state level.

Active-duty soldiers have until Dec. 15 to become “fully vaccinated.” That term, at present, refers to receiving two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine and at least two weeks having elapsed following the final shot of a regimen.

Reserve and National Guard units have been given until June 30, 2022, to become fully vaccinated. However, Army officials have said the reserve and Guard components will reach a minimum of 90 percent vaccinated personnel by April 1, 2022.

Officials say that the vaccine mandate is required to protect the military against COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.

“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,” Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle, the Army surgeon general, said in a statement released at the time the order was issued.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news and stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.