The Army released its COVID-19 vaccination plan this week, which requires active-duty units to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 15, 2021, and Reserve and National Guard units by June 30, 2022.

The Army began implementing the vaccine mandate after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s orders on Aug. 24, which mandated the COVID-19 vaccine after the Pfizer vaccine received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“This is quite literally a matter of life and death for our Soldiers, their families, and the communities in which we live,” Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle, the U.S. Army surgeon general, said. “Case counts and deaths continue to be concerning as the Delta variant spreads, which makes protecting the force through mandatory vaccination a health and readiness priority for the total Army.”

Soldiers who refuse to receive the vaccine and do not have an exemption will face reprimands that “can be career ending,” according to the Army’s press release.

“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,” the release says. “Commanders, command sergeants major, first sergeants, and officers in Command Select List positions who refuse to be vaccinated – and are not pending an exemption request – face suspension and relief if they refuse to comply.”

The release noted that those who refuse to receive the vaccine would first be notified “of the suspension and potential relief from their duties,” counseled, and then have the opportunity to get vaccinated before they would be subject to removal.

The U.S. Air Force set a deadline for all active-duty airmen and Space Force guardians to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 2 and Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve personnel have until Dec. 2.

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.