Jun 25, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Thousands of reservists are unvaccinated as deadline nears

soldiers get vaccinated
A soldier watches another soldier receive his COVID-19 vaccination in Fort Knox, Kentucky. Photo: Jon Cherry/Getty Images

About 60,000 Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers have not yet received COVID-19 vaccines with just a week remaining before an end-of-month deadline to do so, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin set the deadline last year. The mandate allowed soldiers to seek an exemption, but failure to do so or receive the shots could result in discharge from the service.

State of play: The deadline for reservists to comply with the order was about seven months longer than the military gave service members in other branches.

  • Officials believed it would be more difficult to vaccinate the part-time service members, who typically report for duty one weekend a month in addition to the two weeks of annual training they receive.
  • Some reservists may have been vaccinated at civilian hospitals and not yet reported their status, per the Post.

By the numbers: The military has already removed roughly 3,400 soldiers for not complying with the mandate, Military Times reported.

  • Ninety-five U.S. service members have died from the coronavirus since the pandemic began. Half of those were in the Army Reserve and National Guard, per Military Times.
  • Roughly 1.7 million service members are already fully vaccinated, according to data made available by the DOD.

The big picture: During discussion on the annual defense authorization bill, House Republicans tried last week to change the military’s mandate or end it altogether.

  • Republican lawmakers said that soldiers who have not yet received the shots should be exempt if they did not want to get vaccinated or if they have natural immunity, per Military Times. Democrats blocked the efforts.
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