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News   Defense News

Service Members Must Be Vaccinated or Face Consequences, DOD Official Says

Dec. 21, 2021 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

Defense Department officials are making it excruciatingly clear that no matter the status, if you wear the cloth of the military, you must get vaccinated.

Roughly 98 percent of the active-duty force has received the COVID-19 vaccine. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has mandated that all service members receive the life-saving shots. 

A soldier wearing a face mask and gloves holds a syringe while giving another soldier  a vaccine­­­­.
Vaccine Ready
Army Spc. Dorien Lewis, a combat medic with Division Sustainment Troops Battalion MEDOPS, 3rd Division Sustainment Brigade, administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to an Army soldier at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Aug. 17, 2021. Medics across Camp Arifjan held a COVID-19 vaccine drive for personnel that are not fully vaccinated.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Marquis Hopkins
VIRIN: 210817-A-PU202-316

This includes all reserve component members who must receive the shots, as well. 

"It is a lawful order," Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said today. "It is a valid military requirement to get the vaccine. And it does apply, as we've said before, to members of the National Guard."

Unless there is an approved exemption, National Guardsmen who refuse to get the shots face repercussions and consequences. This includes loss of pay or the loss of the ability to train. Those who persist in failing to obey a lawful order face discharge. 

Air National Guard personnel have until the end of the year to get the vaccinations. Army Guardsmen have until June 2022.

Syringes are stacked up on a tray.
COVID-19 Vaccines
Airmen prepare syringes with the COVID-19 vaccine at Yokota Air Base, Japan, June 18, 2021.
Photo By: Yasuo Osakabe, Air Force
VIRIN: 210618-F-PM645-2809C
A service member administers an injection into someone's arm.
Vaccination Time
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph Casassa, assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford, administers a COVID-19 vaccine at the McCormick Gym at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., April 8, 2021. The Defense Logistics Agency has been packing and distributing COVID-19 vaccines to Defense Department employees and families outside the continental United States and to deployed sailors in the U.S. Navy fleet.
Photo By: Navy Seaman Jackson Adkins
VIRIN: 210408-N-TL968-1078C

For service members, the situation is clear — get the shots or face the consequences. 

"It's our expectation that the chain of command for every Guardsman — just like the chain of command for every active-duty member of the armed forces — … will manage the mandatory vaccine requirement appropriately," Kirby said. "If they don't, then they, too, can be held to account under the [Uniform Code of Military Justice] for failure to obey a lawful order."

COVID-19 continues to ravage the United States population. and those without vaccinations are at greatest risk. The omicron variant of the virus seems to be more contagious than previous versions, and hospitals in the country are filling up. The White House has announced a plan to deploy 1,000 military health care professionals to hardest hit areas in the coming days. 

An airman prepares a vaccine.
Vaccine Prep
An Air Force airman prepares a syringe before administering a COVID-19 vaccination at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Nov. 7, 2021.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Ted Daigle
VIRIN: 211107-F-FF833-1001C

DOD officials are working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as state and local officials, to identify the right locations and the hospitals for these service members. The plan right now is for the service members to come from active-duty ranks, Kirby said.