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Six things to know

The Army's new mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy explained

Army Spc. Angel Laureano holds a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., Dec. 14, 2020. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando

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On Sept. 14, 2021, the Army announced its plan to comply with the Secretary of Defense's order requiring all service members to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Army has made COVID-19 vaccines part of our normal medical readiness requirements and began mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations of soldiers using the FDA approved Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty vaccine.

This is a readiness, health and welfare priority for the total Army.

1 - "This is quite literally a matter of life and death..."

In a news release, Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle - U.S. Army Surgeon General - reiterated that the rise of the highly transmissible Delta variant has significantly increased risk to our soldiers and the Army mission.

Vaccination helps prevent transmission to others and provides individuals with protection from severe illness, hospitalization and death.

2 - This policy applies to all soldiers, regardless of rank

Commanders, command sergeants major, first sergeants and officers in Command Select List positions who do not have an approved exemption and are not pending an exemption request will be suspended from command, notified of pending relief from duties, counseled, and provided the opportunity to be vaccinated before they are subject to being removed from their positions by a general officer.

Officers and noncommissioned officers senior enlisted soldiers who have been selected and are waiting to assume CSL command, key billet or nominative sergeant major positions will likewise be subject to removal from the list for those assignments should they refuse to be vaccinated without a pending or approved exemption.

3 - Deadlines for vaccination

Active duty Army units are expected to be fully vaccinated by December 15, 2021.

Reserve and National Guard units are expected to be fully vaccinated by June 30, 2022.

4 - Refusal, without an exemption, will have consequences

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.

Soldiers have the ability to request an exemption from receiving the vaccine, if they have a valid medical, religious or administrative reason. Exemptions may be requested as outlined in Army Regulation 600-20, AR 40-562 as well as the new Army Directive 2021-33 that provides supplementary guidance on exemption requests.

Soldiers who are pending exemption requests will not be subject to adverse actions until the exemption is fully processed.

5 - Masking guidance will remain in place

In areas of substantial or high community transmission, all service members, federal employees, onsite contractor employees and visitors - regardless of vaccination status - are required to wear masks in indoor settings on installations and other facilities owned, leased or otherwise controlled by DoD.

Individuals who are not fully vaccinated must wear a mask indoors and outdoors when social distancing is not possible, regardless of community transmission level.

6 - Qualifications for fully vaccinated status

Soldiers are only considered fully vaccinated two weeks post completion of a two­-dose series vaccine or two weeks post completion of a single dose vaccine.

Soldiers with previous COVID-19 infections are not automatically exempt from full vaccination.

Service members may choose to voluntarily receive any FDA EUA authorized or World Health Organization (WHO) Emergency Use Listing vaccine to meet the vaccination requirement.

Soldiers who have completed an FDA EUA or WHO authorized series are considered fully vaccinated and not required to start the series again with the FDA approved vaccine.

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