Navy to begin separation treatment for sailors refusing COVID-19 vaccination

Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jackson Adkins, of Evans, Ga., Assigned to the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) Media Department, receives a COVID-19 vaccine at the McCormick Gym aboard the base Naval Navy in Norfolk, Va. April 8, 2021 (U.S. Navy photo)

The Navy can now begin to separate active-duty sailors who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Navy guidelines released Wednesday.
Active-duty sailors who refused to be vaccinated were to be separated if they continued to refuse, according to previous guidelines, but commanders were unable to process the separations until further clarification was received. included in Wednesday’s NAVADMIN.

Sailors who can retire or separate on or before June 1 will be able to do so through an expedited process instead of an administrative separation process, according to NAVADMIN. These sailors will receive an honorable discharge unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Seafarers who are not eligible for retirement or separation before June 1 will be treated for administrative separation as soon as possible on the basis of fault.

Those with less than six years of service will receive an honorable discharge and will not appear before an administrative separation commission or a commission of inquiry.

Sailors with more than six years of service will go to an administrative separation board, where they cannot receive at least a general discharge, which limits certain post-military benefits, including funding for education.

However, sailors can request instead to forgo their boards and be separated with an honorable discharge, according to NAVADMIN.

Seafarers who are separated due to a vaccine refusal will not be eligible for the involuntary separation allowance, according to the guidelines. Those who have a service obligation by receiving education funds through the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps or other scholarship or by attending the Naval Academy will be required to reimburse their tuition fees.

While NAVADMIN lists June 1 as the separation date for those who have refused the vaccine, there is no deadline for when the fleet will be 100 percent vaccinated, except for those who are exempt, Rear Admiral James Waters III, director of military personnel, plans and policy said during a media call.

Sailors who have decided to get vaccinated but missed the Nov. 28 deadline to be fully vaccinated could still face administrative repercussions, Waters said. These sailors will have their cases treated individually by the vice-adm. John Nowell Jr. of the COVID Consolidated Disposition Authority (CDA).

“Let me be clear from the start. We want every sailor to receive the vaccine and stay in the Navy, ”Waters said. “And if a sailor is successful, we will honor that and do all we can to hold him back.”

Sailors received advice on the vaccine’s value and advice from medical professionals, Waters said. The Navy also used social media to encourage vaccination.

The majority of the Navy received the vaccine and met the deadline, said MyNavyHR Senior Fleet Commander Wes Koshoffer.

While there is no official data on why some sailors continue to refuse, Koshoffer said that in general it falls into two camps: those who are hesitant about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. and those with religious beliefs against vaccinations.

Despite these concerns, it’s important to note that mandatory vaccinations are not new to the Navy, he said. Vaccination warrants date back to 1848, USNI News previously reported.

The fleet must be fully vaccinated, aside from exemptions, in order to fulfill the Navy’s mission, he said.

Those who are exempt from the vaccine, for medical or administrative reasons, will have their positions limited because they will not be able to perform certain aspects of the mission without being protected from COVID-19, Koshoffer said.

Those separated for refusing the vaccine are greeted with respect, Waters said. They are labeled as “a member of the navy refusing the vaccine” to prevent them from being thrown away with a scarlet letter.

The Navy is not the first branch of the military to begin separating those who refuse the vaccine. The Air Force separated 27 airmen for not having obeyed the vaccination mandate, The Washington Post reported. Last week, the Navy removed the senior executive from the USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG-81) for refusing to be vaccinated.

Although the military as a whole will lose personnel who do not meet the mandate, it is important to maintain the number relative to the size of the military and the number of layoffs that occur on an annual basis of departures to the retirement and those who do not re-enlist, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said at a press conference Tuesday.

“So in terms of preparation, our interest is to make sure that we get a vaccination as close to 100% as possible so that the force can be protected,” Kirby said. “That’s the worry.”

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