Defense

Navy to begin discharging sailors over vaccine policy

Associated Press/Michael Sohn

The Navy announced on Wednesday that it is beginning the process to discharge sailors who refuse to comply with the branch’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Mark D. Faram, chief of naval personnel public affairs, revealed in a statement that the Navy has given guidance to commanders to move forward with issuing administrative separations for service members who will not get inoculated against COVID-19.

The guidance does, however, still give anti-vaccine personnel an opportunity to change their minds and get the jab.

“In order to ensure a fully vaccinated force, U.S. Navy policy is, first, that all Navy service members receive the vaccine as directed and, second, that any who refuse the vaccine be processed for separation at the earliest possible opportunity,” Vice Adm. John B. Nowell, the chief of naval personnel, said in a statement.

“While the vast majority of Navy service members have already received the vaccine, it remains in the interest of the Navy to encourage remaining Navy service members to become fully vaccinated as soon as possible and, at such time, consider them for retention,” he added.

Norwell said individuals who refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine, including regular active duty personnel and members of the reserve’s full-time support community, would receive an administration separation to “maximize speed and equity in achieving a fully vaccinated force.”

Service members who are still waiting for their vaccine exemption requests to be processed will not be immediately discharged, according to Faram’s statement. If their petition is rejected, however, they will be required to get vaccinated within five days of notification. If they continue to refuse, administrative processing for discharge will follow.

Navy personnel who refuse to get vaccinated and are eligible for or have been approved for retirement, separation or transfer to the Fleet Reserve on or before June 1 of next year are permitted to request an expedited process and “leave the service as soon as their circumstances allow.” Unless there are extenuating circumstances to consider, those requesting separation will receive an honorable discharge, according to Faram.

Individuals with less than six years of service who are objecting to the vaccine will receive honorable discharge because they are not entitled to an administrative separation board. Other options are available for personnel who have been in the Navy for more than six years.

Unvaccinated Navy members still have the option to change their mind on getting inoculated, Faram noted, even if they are unable to meet the previously established deadlines.

The guidance comes after officials said all sailors must be inoculated by Nov. 28 or face discharge.

The military branch released its guidance for the discharges in October.

The Air Force earlier this week announced that it had discharged 27 personnel for refusing to comply with the branch’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

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