The U.S. military will begin separating soldiers who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19 under a new directive announced Wednesday by Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth.
The order for commanders to begin involuntary separation from unvaccinated soldiers applies to all regular army soldiers, as well as active duty cadets and reservists, who do not have an accepted exemption request or pending, according to an army statement.
The army has already issued 3,073 written reprimands to general officers for refusing vaccines and relieved six army commanders, including two battalion commanders; however, no soldiers had been discharged from the military for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine as of January 26.
The number of soldiers that remain unvaccinated is limited relative to the largest force. Army officials said 98% of the force had received at least one dose of the vaccine.
“Army readiness depends on soldiers being ready to train, deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars,” Wormuth said. “Unvaccinated soldiers pose a risk to the force and compromise readiness.”
Other uniformed service branches, including the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, have already begun issuing separation orders for service members who have refused the vaccine.
Soldiers expelled from the military for refusing the vaccine will receive general service qualification under honorable conditions.