Military Vaccine Deadlines Pass

Some 98 percent of active service members are now vaccinated. The rest will be discharged.

Major Kimberly Bender, Director Air Force Public Affairs , Joint Base San Antonio, Fort Sam Houston, receives the first of two COVID 19 vaccine shots, Brooke Army Medical Center, Joint Base San Antonio, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, 29 Jan 2021.
US Army Photo in Public Domain

NYT (“Vaccine Holdouts in Army and Navy Will Be Dismissed, Military Says“):

The vast majority of active-duty troops in the Army and the Navy are vaccinated against the coronavirus, and the small number of those still refusing shots will soon be dismissed from the military, officials said on Thursday.

In the Army, 468,459 active-duty soldiers, or 98 percent, have received at least one dose of the vaccine. The Navy has inoculated 342,974 members, with roughly 1.7 percent still holding out.

Some of those who are unvaccinated, however, have medical and administrative waivers or pending requests, or have already signed up for shots. But Army officials said that less than 1 percent of active-force members are in that category. Thousands of troops requested religious exemptions, but none have been granted, officials said.

While I continue to be confused as to why the Defense Department didn’t have a single deadline for active military members to comply with the Secretary of Defense’s order—which was really the President’s order—all of them have now passed. And the good news is that compliance has been extraordinarily high given how polarizing the issue has been, not only in the United States but globally.

And, despite some grandstanding by politicians, conflicts have been resolved with uncharacteristic bureaucratic efficiency.

Army commanders have relieved six active-duty leaders, including two battalion commanders, and issued 2,767 general officer written reprimands to soldiers for refusing the vaccination order, according to Army officials on Thursday.

Vice Adm. John B. Nowell Jr., the chief of naval personnel, said this week that the administrative separation processing for those who continue to refuse would be expedited to “maximize speed and equity in achieving a fully vaccinated force.”

Each service branch set its own deadlines for compliance with the mandate, which was issued last August. The Air Force, with more than 325,000 active-duty members, hit its deadline on Nov. 2. Pentagon officials said this week that 27 airmen — all with less than six years of service — were the first believed to have been fired over vaccine refusals. The deadlines for the Marines and the Navy were on Nov. 28. The Army’s was on Wednesday.

The Marine Corps, far and away the service with the youngest personnel, with most enlisted Marines limited to a single four-year stint, have been the least compliant. This has generated big headlines, with some 10,000 failing to meet the deadline. But that’s still a 94 percent compliance rate.

I understand why the headlines tout the outliers. That some 40,000 people who swore an oath are refusing to follow lawful orders is newsworthy. But that’s out of a combined force of well over 1.3 million.

Further, the noncompliance rates are artificially inflated by the fact that a goodly number of them are people who were otherwise leaving the military, via either the natural end of their enlistment or having reached retirement eligibility. Those people will almost certainly simply be allowed to exit the service without punishment.

This is a success story, not a failure. Mandates work. And our military is more ready because it is fully vaccinated—and because we’re purging it of those who won’t do their duty.

UPDATE: And mandatory booster shots are quite likely soon.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Scott says:

    This is a success story, not a failure. Mandates work. And our military is more ready because it is fully vaccinated—and because we’re purging it of those who won’t do their duty.

    Hear, hear. Quite frankly, for leadership to allow rank disobedience to happen would’ve been a long term disaster for the US military. And yet, many Republicans, who tout their pro-military credentials, actively promote undermining good order and discipline. It cannot, and should not, stand.

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  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Much ado about nothing.

  3. gVOR08 says:

    Mandates work. Hoocoodanode.

    A slogan for the COVID era military, Remember the Theodore Roosevelt.

    3
  4. Michael Reynolds says:

    Mandates work, compliance has been excellent, and idiots are self-purging. Good all around.

    4
  5. Jim Brown 32 says:

    I am thankful for these Men and Women’s service. But its time for them to take their skills back into the Civilian sector. Everyone eventually takes off the uniform.

    Buh Bye.

    3
  6. Argon says:

    To be honest, Jim Brown 32, I’d be happier if the dismissed service members took their skills to isolated cabins in the woods for now. Or maybe there’s an outpost above the Arctic circle they could staff…

    2
  7. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    If these pussies aren’t willing to take a shot, they aren’t willing to take a bullet. Fuq ’em.

    2
  8. Michael Cain says:

    The ones who can retire will have more time, but the younger ones… I wonder how many of them are going to find that the civilian jobs they think are waiting for them also have vaccine mandates. Granted, it appears that it’s a lot easier to get a religious exemption in the civilian sector. But HRs always prefer not to hire potential trouble, and discriminating on the hiring end is straightforward (ask older workers about that).

    4
  9. Kathy says:

    Mandates to the left of them
    Mandates to the right of them
    Theirs not to reason why
    But to take the vaccine and not die.

    Yes, I suck at poetry.

    4
  10. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Anyone know? Will those refusing the vaccine recieve a dis-honorable discharge?

  11. Andy says:

    I still know a lot of people in the Air Force and Navy – and the word is that a non-trivial number of the refuseniks are strategically refusing because they want out.

    Back in the 1990’s with Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, coming out as “gay” was the go-to way to get out of an enlistment contract early. I personally knew three people who did that.

    Overall it’s better for everyone if such individuals separate from the service early. Leading and managing such people is a nightmare.

    Anyway, for those saying this proves that vaccine mandates work, the success here is largely due to the unique nature of military authority and it can’t be replicated elsewhere.

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  12. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Andy:

    …success here is largely due to the unique nature of military authority and it can’t be replicated elsewhere.

    Well the airlines are reporting vaccination rates that are pretty close to that of the military. Compliance is proportional to managements commitment to it.

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  13. steve says:

    A couple of my reservists just got separated. They said that there is some downsizing going with us out of both Afghanistan and Iraq. If true (anyone know?) can see why the military wasn’t trying real hard to keep those who refused. Now they get to replace them with some trans, non-binary, woke, communists if not true so a win all around!

    Steve

  14. Andy says:

    @steve:

    A couple of my reservists just got separated. They said that there is some downsizing going with us out of both Afghanistan and Iraq.

    For FY2022 active duty end strength is only decreasing by 4,600 and reserve end strength by 700. Because the federal government is highly bureaucratic and slow, significant changes due to the end of the Afghanistan mission won’t be seen until FY2023 at the earliest.

    1
  15. Michael Cain says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Well the airlines are reporting vaccination rates that are pretty close to that of the military. Compliance is proportional to managements commitment to it.

    In the states where the courts have allowed health care provider mandates to stand, even with no religious exemptions, the numbers at the big hospitals are also similar: 2% tops and frequently less. In the pieces I have read, the big hospital HR departments are saying it’s not the losses due to the mandates that are killing them, it’s staff leaving who say they will no longer put up with the ridiculous hours, the huge case loads, and the insane subset of the Covid patients.

    1
  16. JohnMcC says:

    Caught a bit of NPR about the OK governor suing DoD. Jumped to the conclusion it was about the Guard there that were excused from the vaccine. There was something about TX joining the suit.

    Edit: Oops. Maybe old news. Stories found by googling seem to be from Dec 3. Shoulda looked.

  17. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: This is being treated as a medical readiness issue and not as misconduct. Most will receive an honorable discharge. Im told some of the refusers are being real assholes trashing the chain of command etc–so those folks depending on how extreme their behavior is will start at a general discharge but could get worse depending on how badly behaved thy are.

  18. Andy says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    To add to what Jim Brown said, Dishonorable or Bad Conduct discharges can only result from criminal convictions at certain types of courts martials for certain types of crimes. The worst administrative discharge available is an other-than-honorable but I would expect that to be rare.

  19. de stijl says:

    If you get deployed abroad you are guaranteed to get about 18 shots. For shit you’ve never even heard of. You do it because it is required.

    You have to be a politicized dipshit to object to Covid vaccine but not the 97 other shots you got during normal career activities you routinely accepted. Degenerate hypocrisy.