Navy to discharge sailors refusing COVID vaccine


SAN DIEGO — The U.S. Navy announced Wednesday it is prepared to discharge sailors who refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

All active-duty members must be fully vaccinated by Nov. 28, according to Navy officials. Anyone who decides not to get it could be discharged.

In order to meet that deadline, sailors have to receive their second dose if they’re receiving the two-shot Pfizer or Moderna shot by Nov. 14 — that’s because a person is not considered fully vaccinated until 14 days after getting the second dose.

Members in the reserve must be fully vaccinated by Dec. 28, with the deadline to receive the second shot 14 days before then. Those deciding not to get it could receive as low as a general discharge under honorable conditions, which could result in the loss of some veterans’ benefits.

The Navy explained why they are taking such harsh actions in a newly released notice.

“Sailors must be prepared to execute their mission at all times in places throughout the world, including where vaccination rates are low and disease transmission is high,” the notice said. “Immunizations are of paramount importance to protecting the health of the force and warfighting readiness of the fleet.”

Vice Adm. John B. Nowell, Jr., the Chief of Naval Personnel, wrote there have been 164 deaths within the Navy family due to COVID-19, which has far exceeded the combined total of all other health or mishap-related injuries and deaths over the same time period. Of those he noted, 144 were not immunized. The vaccination status of the remaining 20 remains undetermined. 

Currently, about 94% of active-duty sailors are fully vaccinated. Navy personnel can request an exemption for medical or religious reasons.

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