A Hospital Corpsman administers a vaccine to a Sailor aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). U.S. Navy Photo

US Navy Issues Discharge Guidance for Sailors Refusing COVID-19 Vaccine

Mike Schuler
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November 19, 2021

The U.S. Navy has issued follow-on guidance for service member who refuse the COVID-19 vaccination in defiance of the Navy’s vaccine mandate.

Currently, 95 percent of the active-duty force is fully vaccinated, and over 99 percent have received at least one shot. The Navy’s deadline for full vaccination is November 28.

The Navy’s vaccine requirement became mandatory in August at the direction of the Secretary of Defense. Now, as with many other vaccines, COVID-19 immunization is required for full medical and deployment qualification.

“In order to ensure a fully vaccinated force, it is U.S. Navy policy to separate all Navy service members who refuse the lawful order to receive the COVID-19 vaccination,” Vice Adm. John B. Nowell, Jr., the chief of naval personnel wrote, in the message. “The least favorable characterization of service for Navy service members refusing the vaccine, without extenuating circumstances, will be GENERAL (under honorable conditions).”

A general discharge will, at the discretion of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), result in the loss of eligibility for some VA benefits such as the GI Bill, including the transfer of GI Bill benefits to dependents.

The Navy is currently reviewing medical and religious COVID-19 vaccine exemption requests. If denied an exemption, however, sailors must start vaccinations within five days and, beyond that deadline, commands will begin processing them for discharge.

In August, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III issued a memo directing mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for all uniformed service members. Under an Executive Order issued in September, President Biden directed Executive Branch agencies to implement a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for all Federal employees. All DoD civilian employees must be fully vaccinated by November 22, 2021, subject to exemptions.

More of the Navy’s vaccine guidance can be found here.

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