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Unvaccinated soldiers left behind as mandate lifted

'The Department’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts will leave a lasting legacy'

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January 12, 2023


10:19 AM

Unvaccinated soldiers left behind as mandate lifted

The Department of Defense Tuesday officially lifted its year-and-a-half-long vaccine mandate after it was voted down in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) last month. The DoD had been given 30 days to overturn the mandate and develop “new guidance”. 

In a Tuesday memo rescinding his original vaccine mandate from August 21, 2021, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that unvaccinated service members who “sought an accommodation on religious, administrative or medical grounds” would not be separated from the Armed Forces and would have any adverse actions taken against them, including letters of reprimand, reversed. 

But the memo continued to say that those soldiers may still be kept from deployment or assignments based on their vaccination status. 

“Other standing Departmental policies, procedures, and processes regarding immunizations remain in full effect,” wrote Austin. “These include the ability of commanders to consider, as appropriate, the individual immunization status of personnel in making deployment, assignment, and other operational decisions, including when vaccination is required for travel to, or entry into, a foreign nation.” 

Frontline News has previously reported the Navy’s refusal to deploy 35 Navy SEALs who refused the shots, as well as a destroyer commanded by an unvaccinated officer. The Air Force has also been grounding pilots who have refused the COVID-19 injections. Nothing in Biden’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) signed last month requires military brass to allow soldiers to do their jobs.   

Sec. Austin also said that for those service members discharged on the sole basis that they “failed to obey a lawful order to receive a vaccine for COVID-19, the Department is precluded by law from awarding any characterization less than a general (under honorable conditions) discharge.” 

Republican attempts to add a clause in the NDAA to reinstate the over-8,000 unvaccinated members who were discharged, with backpay, were voted down. To date, the Army has booted 1,841 servicemembers, the Navy 2,032 and the Marine Corps 3,717 over their health choice. 

“There’s nothing to repair what’s already happened. There’s nothing to address the improper handling of medical exemptions, the violations for Religious Freedom Restoration Act and what the future looks like, whether it’s for religious reasons or other reasons,” military defense attorney R. Davis Younts told the Daily Caller.   

“The Department’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts will leave a lasting legacy in the many lives we saved, the world-class Force we have been able to field, and the high level of readiness we have maintained, amidst difficult public health conditions,” Austin’s letter concluded. 

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