The Austin memorandum allows for some flexibility in the deployment of unvaccinated soldiers.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has announced in a memo that the contentious COVID-19 vaccination order for troops is being officially rescinded.
The House and Senate approved a measure to rescind the administration’s military vaccination requirement and signed into law by President Joe Biden just before Christmas.
Even while the National Defense Authorization Act reinstated benefits for individuals who dismissed or reduced their pay for refusing the COVID-19 vaccination, it did not restore those discharged for refusing the vaccine. Some Republicans, citing the tight mandate as a factor in the military’s historically low recruiting numbers, have made its reinstatement a top goal.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was given 30 days to reverse the vaccination requirement once the law was passed. Any further personnel measures, such as the discharge of soldiers who refused the vaccination, had already been halted by the Defense Department.
The Department will continue to advocate and support COVID-19 immunization for all military personnel,” Austin said in the memo. Vaccination increases operational preparedness and safeguards the force.
Commanders are still allowed some leeway in deciding whether or not to deploy non-vaccinated soldiers based on Austin’s memorandum. He emphasized that commanders have the responsibility and power to ensure their units and the entire force are always prepared and in good health.
In cases when vaccination is necessary for travel to or admission into a foreign country, he said, “the capacity of commanders to consider, as needed, the individual immunization status of soldiers in making deployment, assignment, and other operational decisions.”
As a result of vaccination requirements, almost 8,400 service members were discharged for disobeying a legitimate order and failing to comply with medical recommendations. Many people (in the thousands) also requested compassionate or religious exemptions. Following Austin’s memo, we will no longer accept such exception requests.
After the FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine in August 2021, the Defense Secretary implemented the requirement (FDA). Austin argued that the vaccination was essential to the police force’s health. As he and other defense officials emphasized, troops have been subject to mandatory vaccinations involving up to seventeen distinct types of pathogens for decades. The new law does not change any existing vaccination requirements.
Despite this, Congress decided to withdraw the requirement when opponents conceded that it had likely succeeded in getting the vast majority of the force vaccinated. As many as 99 percent of Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps active-duty and 98 percent of Army personnel had received the vaccination. While the active duty rate is above 90%, the Guard and Reserve rates are lower.
According to Austin’s memo, active-duty service members who have requested a religious, administrative, or medical exemption from receiving the COVID-19 immunization will not be discharged because of their unwillingness to get the shot. If a request is denied, the military will erase any disciplinary action (such as a reprimand) taken against the individual.