The U.S. Navy announced Thursday that it is preparing to discharge sailors who refuse vaccination for COVID-19 as mandated by the Pentagon, and the service members who get the boot over their noncompliance run the risk of losing some veterans benefits.
The Navy sent out a press release noting that Nov. 14 is the deadline for active-duty sailors to get either their second shot of a two-dose vaccine or the single shot of a one-dose vaccine. Reservists have until Dec. 14.
Sailors who do not have a pending or approved exemption by the deadlines set will face administrative actions and "those separated only for vaccine refusal will receive no lower than a general discharge under honorable conditions" the Navy's statement read, adding, "This type of discharge could result in the loss of some veterans’ benefits."
The Navy said it "may also seek recoupment of applicable bonuses, special and incentive pays, and the cost of training and education for service members refusing the vaccine."
"Sailors must be prepared to execute their mission at all times, in places throughout the world, including where vaccination rates are low and disease transmission is high," the Navy stated. "Immunizations are of paramount importance to protecting the health of the force and the warfighting readiness of the Fleet."
The Navy says 98% of its active duty members are already vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The Department of Defense announced in late August that all members of the armed forces must get vaccinated against COVID-19, just days after the Food and Drug Administration granted full approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
President Joe Biden has mandated that all federal employees be fully vaccinated by Nov. 22, and that all federal contractors have a fully vaccinated workforce by Dec. 8. He has also directed OSHA to issue a forthcoming regulation ordering all U.S. businesses with more than 100 employees to require their workers to either get vaccinated or submit to weekly coronavirus tests.