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Army has relieved six active-duty commanders for refusing COVID-19 vaccine

The Army has relieved six active-duty commanders, including two battalion commanders, and issued 2,994 general officer written reprimands to soldiers for refusing a COVID vaccine. 

In a release Wednesday, the Army said the punishments were for refusing the lawful order by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. The Army has not yet initiated separations for soldiers refusing the vaccine but expects further guidance later this month. 

At least 96% of active-duty soldiers in the Army are fully vaccinated. The deadline set by the Army for active-duty soldiers to complete their COVID vaccination was December 15, 2021.  

The Army has not granted any religious exemption requests but has received 2,128 requests. The Navy, Air Force and Marines also have not granted any religious exemption requests so far. 

Virus Outbreak Military Vaccines
Staff Sgt. Travis Snyder, left, receives the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine given at Madigan Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, Dec. 16, 2020, south of Seattle.  Ted S. Warren / AP

According to the Navy's weekly update, the Navy has 5,209 active-duty sailors who remain unvaccinated and 2,968 members of the ready reserve. Commanders have separated 20 soldiers who were within 180 days of active-duty service for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Austin mandated the vaccine in September but left it up to the services to set the deadlines. The deadlines for the active component and reserve component for each service to receive a vaccine have passed, except for the Army National Guard who still has until June 30. 

As of now, boosters are not required to be considered "fully vaccinated" and comply with the Pentagon's COVID-19 rule, but as the Omicron wave started rolling through the country, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby has said a booster requirement is under active discussion at the Defense Department. 

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