The Navy has set a timeline for all sailors to comply with mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations or provide a valid exemption, and it has set punishment for those who refuse to comply.
All active-duty sailors must be fully vaccinated by Nov. 28, while those in the reserves have until Dec. 28, according to a Navy press release on Thursday.
The actual deadline for receiving the second dose is Nov. 14 for active-duty sailors and Dec. 14 for reserve personnel since the shots require 14 days to become fully effective.
Anyone discharged only for refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine will be given no lower than an "honorable" general discharge, according to the release, although the discharge could result in the loss of some veterans benefits.
President Joe Biden signed an executive order in September requiring members of the military, among others, to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Many have still refused to comply, as have members of the public, who have cited religious reasons and fears that the vaccine has not been fully tested.
Among the branches of the military, the Navy has the highest compliance rate: 90% fully vaccinated and 98% who have at least one dose.
"Sailors must be prepared to execute their mission at all times, in places throughout the world, including where vaccination rates are low and disease transmission is high. Immunizations are of paramount importance to protecting the health of the force and the warfighting readiness of the Fleet," the Navy's press release said.
"Tragically, there have been 164 deaths within the Navy family due to COVID-19, far exceeding the combined total of all other health or mishap related injuries and deaths over the same time period,'' wrote Vice Adm. John B. Nowell Jr., chief of naval personnel.
Of those, he said, 144 were not immunized. The vaccination status of the remaining 20 is not known.
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