Navy issues new guidelines on separating seafarers for vaccine refusals
Sailors who do not have an exemption for the COVID-19 vaccine will have five days to initiate the vaccination process before facing separation, according to new Navy guidelines.
Sailors on active duty must be fully immunized by Nov. 28, unless they have a pending or approved exemption, according to previous naval guidelines. Fully vaccinated means they are two weeks after the second injection of the FDA-approved Pfizer vaccine, the authorized emergency vaccine-Moderna, or the single-dose version of Johnson and Johnson.
In order for sailors on active duty to meet this deadline, they should have received the last blow on Sunday. Reservists have until December 28 to be fully immunized.
Under NAVADMIN 256/21, made public Monday evening, soldiers who benefit from an exemption or a current one cannot be separated because they are not vaccinated. However, they can be temporarily reassigned.
If an exemption is denied, then they have five days after the notice to start getting the vaccine. If they still refuse the vaccine, they will be separated, according to the NAVADMIN signed by Chief of Naval Personnel, Vice Admiral John Nowell.
“Notwithstanding the policy of separating members of the Navy refusing the vaccine, each member of the Navy must be treated with dignity and respect at all times throughout the execution of the policies described in this document,” it reads. the NAVADMIN.
It’s unclear how many pending exemptions the Navy is considering. So far, it has granted six permanent medical exemptions, which is a warrant exemption granted for a medical reason, such as an allergy to an ingredient.
Temporary medical dispensation may also be granted, although these are granted in situations where a person has a time-limited reason for not receiving the vaccine, such as being ill at the time of a potential vaccination or facing upcoming surgery.
The Navy can also grant administrative exemptions, for example when a person is about to retire, or religious exemptions. But the Navy has not granted a religious exemption for a vaccination in the past seven years, USNI News previously reported.
The Navy did not disclose the number of exemptions, other than permanent medical exemptions, it has granted. He likely won’t do so until the Nov. 28 deadline expires for sailors on active duty.
Sailors separated because they refuse the vaccine will receive at least one general discharge under honorable conditions. This can result in the loss of some veterans benefits, including the GI Bill, according to NAVADMIN.
Those who decline the vaccine are also not eligible for Navy education opportunities or tuition assistance, according to NAVADMIN. The vaccination mandate applies to midshipmen in the Naval Academy and ROTC programs, although they will follow their own instructions governing arbitration.
Those who refuse the vaccine are also not eligible for re-enrollment, according to NAVADMIN.
It is not known how many active-duty sailors could be separated. According to a press release issued Monday evening by the Navy, more than 99% of the 350,000 active-duty sailors in the service received the first dose of the vaccine, while 95% were fully vaccinated.
It is not known whether the 5%, or roughly 17,500 sailors, will be fully vaccinated by the November 28 deadline. If so, this leaves a small percentage of active-duty naval personnel who could be separated under the vaccination warrant.
Reluctance over vaccines is not new to the Navy, as the Maritime and other services were concerned about the anthrax mandate in the early 2000s, the Navy previously reported. USNI. Vaccination mandates aren’t new to the Navy either, with the first in the 1800s.