More than 90% of all active-duty service members have completed their coronavirus vaccination as those who have refused without an exemption are being forced out.
The percentage of active-duty forces who have received at least one shot, though this would be in violation of the Air Force's, Marines's, and Navy’s deadlines, increases to 97%, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday. Further, nearly 90% of the reserve forces have received one dose, while 75% are fully vaccinated, the press secretary added. The deadlines for reserve troops to receive the vaccine are later than those for active forces.
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Kirby’s comments come a day after the Air Force announced that 27 out of the roughly 5,000 active-duty airmen and guardians who refused the vaccine were discharged for failure to obey a lawful order, making them the first to be separated over the mandate. None of them sought a religious exemption, while most were in their first enlistment with less than six years of service and attended the Transition Assistance Program before their separation.
The Air Force intends to abide by the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act, which included an amendment barring the services from discharging service members under less than the general designation.
Additionally, Navy Cmdr. Lucian Kins, the executive officer aboard the USS Winston Churchill, was relieved of duty for the same reason last week.
“The vast majority of our people, and this shouldn’t get lost, the vast majority are doing the right thing and did the right thing even before the vaccine was mandatory, but they’re getting the shot. And so, I think that’s important to keep that perspective,” Kirby explained, though he declined to speculate as to how many service members could be separated as a result of the mandate.
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In total, there are roughly 40,000 active-duty service members who will be in violation of the vaccination order when the Army's deadline passes on Wednesday, according to the Washington Post. The number amounts to roughly 3% of the total active-duty force, which comprises approximately 1.3 million people.
Kirby also said the possibility of mandating the coronavirus booster is under “active discussion here at the Pentagon, but there’s been no policy decision made about requiring the booster shot, making it mandatory,” though Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “strongly encourages” eligible service members to get it.