On July 1, the U.S. Army announced that the June 30 COVID-19 vaccination deadline for Army Guardsmen and Reserve soldiers had passed and that reserve component soldiers “may not participate in federally funded drills and training and will not receive pay or retirement credit.”
Other branches of the armed forces are following in coming weeks with August 1 being the final deadline for all or the U.S. armed forces.
“Soldiers who refuse the vaccination order without an approved or pending exemption request are subject to adverse administrative actions, including flags, bars to service, and official reprimands,” an Army spokesperson said in a statement to Military.com.
Over 60,000 military personnel including an estimated one thousand in the Alabama National Guard are impacted by this Biden Administration policy.
The Army reported Friday that 87% of the Army National Guard is fully vaccinated, and 89% have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Only a handful of religious or medical exemptions were granted and over a thousand are still waiting for a decision.
Thousands of unvaccinated soldiers will forego pay and benefits until they either comply with the vaccine mandate or the Army separates them. Military members who are partially vaccinated must also forego pay and benefits until they fully comply with President Joe Biden’s (D) orders to complete the vaccination process.
Army officials have stopped short of outlining a clear plan on removing part-time soldiers, particularly Guardsmen, from service for continuing to refuse the vaccine, according to Military.com. As of now, Guardsmen are barred only from attending federally funded drills and other training events, which make up the bulk of their service. While Guardsmen technically serve under their respective governors during their typical weekend duties, those weekends are federally funded.
Doctor and retired Alabama National Guard Colonel Stewart Tankersley explained to 1819 News that this is more complicated than simply changing jobs in that if a soldier has received a benefit such as education assistance and they have not completed the required term of service for obtaining that benefit they could owe all of the money back to the Pentagon.
‘This is a big deal to those young people, they joined to get those benefits,” Tankersley said. “They are petrified of losing those benefits.”
Army officials remain hopeful that those who are resistant to the vaccine will change their minds.
“We’re going to give every soldier every opportunity to get vaccinated and continue their military career,” Director of the Army Guard, Lt. Gen. Jon Jensen, said in a statement to Military.com. “We’re not giving up on anybody until the separation paperwork is signed and completed.”
As of Friday, 1,148 active-duty soldiers have been removed from the Army for failing to comply with the vaccine mandate, according to Military.com
Tankersley believes that the health risks from vaccine injury outweigh any possible medical benefit for receiving the vaccination.
“The evidence is overwhelming that they should not take the vaccine,” Tankersley said. “The risk [from COVID-19] to fit people that age group is almost nonexistent. I don’t recommend this vaccine for anybody.”
The vaccines have shown to have some side effects, including heart inflammation that has affected at least 22 service members, according to a study from the JAMA Network.
Tankersley is a member of the Concerned Doctors of Alabama, a conservative group that is skeptical of the benefits of the vaccine and the state and federal response to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
“None of it made sense to me," said Tankersley, who was appointed by Gov. Kay Ivey (R) to the committee to formulate the state plan for dealing with the pandemic.
“The threat was not there,” Tankersley said. “Of the 50 most infectious diseases in the world, the coronavirus was not on the list, measles was number fifty. It didn’t warrant the ridiculous manner in which it was dealt with.”
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