Although 97% of soldiers have gotten the shot, even a few unvaccinated members poses a risk to the overall force, Army officials say.
About 3,300 service members may be discharged for misconduct if they refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine, the Army announced this week. North Carolina is home to Fayetteville’s Fort Bragg, the largest military base in the nation with 53,700 active-duty troops.
The military service has issued official reprimands in writing to more than 3,000 soldiers, who may be among the first let go.
“Army readiness depends on soldiers who are prepared to train, deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said Wednesday. “Unvaccinated soldiers present risk to the force and jeopardize readiness.”
Back in August 2021, shortly after the Pfizer vaccine received full approval, the Pentagon announced it would require service members to receive the COVID-19 shot. The Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy have already discharged their vaccine refusers. Active-duty soldiers and reserves, cadets, boot camp trainees, and ROTC are all subject to the Army’s directive.
According to CBS 17, 96% of soldiers at Fort Bragg met the Army’s Dec. 15 vaccination deadline, but at least 350 outright refused the shot. About 900 applied for medical or religious exemptions, according to Lt. Colonel Owen Price, Chief of Force Health Protection, XVIII Airborne Corps.
“At least in my experience, it’s very uncommon for religious exemptions to be approved,” Price said. “What it comes down to is a protection of the force issue and having someone who’s unvaccinated, particularly in a deployed setting, is a risk to the overall force and mission.”
Roughly 97% of all Army soldiers are at least partially vaccinated, and 3,000 more have requested medical or religious exemptions. Those awaiting pending decisions on exemptions won’t be terminated immediately.