Active-duty members of the U.S. Army are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by mid-December.
The Army announced Tuesday that all active-duty units are expected to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 15 while Reserve and National Guard units are expected to be fully vaccinated by June 30, 2022.
Soldiers will be able to request an exemption if they have a “legitimate medical, religious or administrative reason.”
“While soldiers who refuse the vaccine will first be counseled by their chain of command and medical providers, continued failure to comply could result in administrative or non-judicial punishment — to include relief of duties or discharge,” the Army said.
The plan is in compliance with an August memo from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin that mandated COVID-19 vaccines for service members. The Army said it started implementing the order on Aug. 24. Before that, the vaccines had been optional.
“This is quite literally a matter of life and death for our Soldiers, their families and the communities in which we live,” Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle, the U.S. Army surgeon general, said in a statement. “Case counts and deaths continue to be concerning as the Delta variant spreads, which makes protecting the force through mandatory vaccination a health and readiness priority for the total Army.”