Navy Vaccine Holdouts Could Face Separation

Navy Vaccine Holdouts Could Face Separation man prepares vaccine Navy personnel prepare doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in the Queens borough of New York, on Feb. 24, 2021. (SETH WENIG/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

By Fran Beyer | Tuesday, 16 November 2021 02:42 PM

The Navy is warning that sailors who refuse mandatory COVID-19 shots could face discharge.

The strict new guidance issued Monday also outlines other actions refusers may encounter, Navy Times reported

For example, sailors who reject the jab and don’t have a pending or approved exemption request could lose out on education benefits, promotions, and bonus pay, according to the Navy administrative message.

"In order to ensure a fully vaccinated force, U.S. Navy policy is to process for separation all Navy service members who refuse the lawful order to receive the COVID-19 vaccination and do not have an approved exemption," the NAVADMIN declared, the military news outlet reported.

Sailors denied an administrative exemption — like a religious waiver, or a medical exemption — then have five days afterward to take steps to get the vaccine or the Navy will start the separation process, the message noted.

The announcement comes after the Navy announced last month it was standing up a COVID Consolidated Disposition Authority to "ensure a fair and consistent process" handling separation for those who refuse the vaccination.

The new guidance outlines what other actions sailors may face, Navy Times reported.

Those rejecting the COVID-19 vaccine aren’t eligible to reenlist or extend their enlistment, and commanders have to cancel extension agreements that haven’t taken effect for sailors who refuse the shot.

The guidance also instructs commanders to delay promotions and to withhold advancements for enlisted personnel who refuse to be vaccinated.

Sailors who reject the vaccine also have new limitations on bonus or incentive pay — and will be denied education opportunities and tuition assistance.

"Those who fail to complete a service obligation incurred for participating in Navy funded full-time, part-time, or off-duty education programs … will be required to reimburse the cost of the education received, prorated for the obligated time served," according to the message, Navy Times reported.

Navy Times reported active-duty sailors had to get their last dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by Sunday to meet the Nov. 28 deadline to become fully vaccinated. Those in the Navy Reserve have until Dec. 14 to meet the deadline for fully vaccinated status on Dec. 28.

Sailors who don’t comply and are separated only for refusing the vaccine could receive as low as a general discharge under honorable conditions — which could eliminate their eligibility for some veteran benefits, Navy Times reported.

The Navy says 96% of active-duty sailors and 93% of the total force are fully vaccinated, while 99.5% of active-duty sailors and 96.5% of the total force have received at least one COVID-19 shot, according to figures released Nov. 10.

The Navy has signed off on six medical exemptions for the vaccine, but has not approved any religious waiver requests, Navy Times reported.

More than 70 service members across all branches have died due to complications from COVID-19, with at least 15 of those from the Navy, according to Pentagon data as of Nov. 10, Navy Times reported.

The Navy reports that all Navy COVID-19 deaths have been among unvaccinated individuals.