Number of Soldiers Booted for Vaccine Refusal Doubled from Last Month

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Spc. Tyler Boyer administers the COVID-19 vaccine at Fort Carson.
Spc. Tyler Boyer administers the COVID-19 vaccine at Fort Carson, Colorado Aug 3, 2021. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Andrew Greenwood)

The number of soldiers who have been separated from the Army due to refusing the COVID-19 vaccine has more than doubled from last month, according to new statistics released by the service on Friday.

The service has now discharged at least 742 active-duty soldiers for refusal, it said. On April 20, the total was 345.

In addition to COVID-19, troops are mandated to receive more than a dozen other vaccines, including those against smallpox, hepatitis and the flu. However, troops are not required to get any COVID-19 booster shots. Right now, 97% of the active-duty Army is fully vaccinated.

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In addition to the separations, 3,416 general officer reprimands have been given out to soldiers refusing the vaccine. The admonishments are largely seen as career killers in the military.

Soldiers can receive a religious or medical exemption from the vaccine, but those exceptions are exceedingly rare.

Only nine out of 4,428 religious exemption applications have been approved by the Army. It's unclear how those nine soldiers made their case, and troops seeking a religious waiver may have a steep hill to climb if they didn't take issue with any of the service's other vaccine mandates.

Army officials have approved 22 medical exemptions of the 732 requested so far. COVID-19 vaccines have been determined to be safe, but do carry a minor risk of causing some health issues such as heart inflammation, which has affected at least 22 service members, according to a study from the JAMA Network.

The new numbers on separations also come a month before the Army Reserve and National Guard hit their deadline to be inoculated at the end of June.

Some governors have challenged the Pentagon's directive for the National Guard amid Republican opposition to pandemic-related mandates, saying they will not kick out any refusers.

It's still unclear whether those governors will follow through with their defiance. The rules Guardsmen must follow can change depending on what type of mission they are on and whether it falls under state or federal orders.

-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.

Related: Lieutenant Found Guilty After Breaking COVID-19 Rules in a First for the Army, But Won't Be Punished

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