United States (U.S.) soldiers who refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine will be immediately discharged, the U.S. Army said on Wednesday, saying the move was critical to maintaining combat readiness.
The Army’s order applies to regular Army soldiers, active-duty Army reservists and cadets unless they have approved or pending exemptions, it said in a statement.
The discharge order is the latest from a U.S. military branch removing unvaccinated service members amid the pandemic after the Pentagon made the vaccine mandatory for all service members in August 2021.
The vast majority of all active-duty troops have received at least one dose. Roughly 79 uniformed military personnel across the different services have died from the novel coronavirus. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said:
Army readiness depends on soldiers who are prepared to train, deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars. Unvaccinated soldiers present risk to the force and jeopardize readiness.
Other branches of the U.S. military, including the U.S. Air Force, have already begun to remove those who have chosen not to receive COVID vaccines, which were first authorized for emergency use in December 2020.
There has been reluctance in some quarters, worldwide, to take the vaccine amid scepticism over its efficacy.