Four U.S. military branches have set deadlines for when active-duty, reserve and National Guard service members must be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The deadlines set by the services follow Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin's announcement at the end of August that all U.S. military service members must be vaccinated after the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine received full authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.
The U.S. Army will require all active-duty military members to he vaccinated by Dec. 15, 2021, and all National Guard soldiers will be required to be vaccinated by June 30, 2022, the Army said in a statement released Tuesday.
The Army said soldiers who do not comply and do not have a request for exemption pending or approved could face "suspension and relief," could be removed from lists of potential promotions within the Army or could receive reprimands, which can be "career ending," the Army statement said. The punishment for not receiving a vaccine by the deadline varies by a soldier's rank in the Army.
Commanders, command sergeants major, first sergeants and officers, all considered leadership positions in the army, who don't get vaccinated and do not have a request for exemption will "face suspension and relief if they refuse to comply," the statement said.
The U.S. Air Force has also set deadlines for when their personnel will need to be vaccinated. The Air Force will require active-duty military members to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 2, 2021. Air Force National Guard and Air Force Reserve personnel will need to be vaccinated by Dec. 2, 2021, a release from the Air Force said on Sept. 3.
The U.S. Navy will require all active-duty service members to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 28, 2021 and all Navy Reserve service members to be vaccinated by Dec. 28, 2021, the Navy said in a release on Aug. 21.
The U.S. Marine Corps active-duty members also must be vaccinated by Nov. 28 and reservists must be vaccinated by Dec. 28, a release from the U.S. Marine Corps said.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin initially announced plans to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for all service members in mid-August but said he would wait for either one of the vaccines to be fully authorized by the FDA or mid-September to make the requirement official. After the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was fully authorized in August, he sent a memo making getting vaccinated mandatory and asking all of these services to come up with their own implementation plans.
"After careful consultation with medical experts and military leadership, and with the support of the President, I have determined that mandatory vaccination against coronavirus disease 2019 [COVID-19] is necessary to protect the Force and defend the American people," Austin wrote in a memo released Aug. 25. He added, "To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready force."