Twenty sailors have been kicked out of the Navy for not receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, the Navy announced Wednesday.
The sailors were the first to be removed due to vaccine refusal. According to the Navy, there are a total of 5,268 active duty and 2,980 Navy Reserve sailors who are unvaccinated as of January 5, 2022. The service has approved 8 permanent medical exemptions, 242 temporary medical exemptions and 74 administrative exemptions for active-duty sailors.
The announcement comes after a federal judge in Texas issued a preliminary injunction stopping the Navy from penalizing 35 Navy SEALs for refusing the vaccine for religious regions.
“The Navy servicemembers in this case seek to vindicate the very freedoms they have sacrificed so much to protect,” U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor wrote. “The COVID-19 pandemic provides the government no license to abrogate those freedoms. There is no COVID-19 exception to the First Amendment. There is no military exclusion from our Constitution.”
Active duty sailors had until November 28 to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and Navy Reserve sailors had until December 28.
“The Navy unveiled discharge plans for sailors who rejected the COVID-19 vaccine in October, and stood up the COVID Consolidated Disposition Authority to oversee the separation process. Sailors who remain unvaccinated and do not have an approved exemption also could lose out on education benefits, promotions and bonus pay,” The New York Post reported. “Navy leaders have said it will likely take more than six months to separate sailors unvaccinated sailors, although the bulk of separations are expected in the first half of 2022. Even so, the service has said it wants to keep as many sailors as possible.”
“Let me be clear up front: We want every sailor to receive the vaccine and stay Navy,” Rear Adm. James Waters III, director of military personnel, plans and policy, said in December. “And if a sailor gets their shot, we will honor that and make every effort to retain them.”