The US Navy has set up an organization to handle discharges from sailors who refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine and do not have a pending or approved exemption request on the books.
Navy officials on Thursday announced the creation of the COVID Consolidated Disposition Authority to oversee the administrative discharge process for sailors who meet the definition of “refuse vaccine.”
The Pentagon has not indicated how many members of the Navy or other military are known to actively refuse the vaccine. While recent media reports claimed that more than 200,000 military personnel had not yet been fully immunized, the number of refusals for political or other reasons is unclear.
Military officials said more than 98% of active-duty Navy personnel have already completed the round of immunizations or are in the process of doing so. The Navy also stressed the risks of not getting the vaccine.
“There have been 164 Navy family deaths from COVID-19, far exceeding the combined total of all other health or accident related injuries or deaths during the same period,” said Vice Admiral John B. Nowell Jr., chief of staff of the navy, said in a statement. He said 144 of the deaths were in people who had not been immunized, while the immunization status of the other 20 staff remains unclear.
The Navy has ordered all active-duty sailors to be fully immunized by November 28, 2021. This means they have until November 14 to receive the second of two vaccines required for the two-dose vaccine. or a single dose of one. -vaccine dose and complete the 14-day waiting period required to obtain a full vaccination.
“Sailors must be prepared to perform their missions at all times, in places around the world, including where vaccination rates are low and disease transmission is high,” Navy officials said in a communicated. “Vaccinations are of paramount importance to protect the health of the force and the combat readiness of the fleet.”
The announcement of the new organization to oversee the administrative discharge of sailors refusing the vaccine comes nearly two months after Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered all military personnel to be vaccinated.
Limited vaccine exemptions may be granted in certain cases, including for potential medical or religious reasons. Regarding the Navy, the Pentagon has indicated that commanders are authorized to reassign Navy personnel who refuse the vaccine on the basis of “operational readiness or mission requirements.”
But sailors who refuse can be fired, and officers without an approved waiver will have five days after being notified to either begin the vaccination process or be dismissed from duty.
The Navy’s COVID-19 authority also has the power to recover any bonus or special duty allowance from sailors refusing vaccines, as well as the cost of training and education, military officials said, adding that these sailors could receive an “honorable general discharge” as opposed to an “honorable discharge”, which could result in the loss of some veteran benefits.