- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2023

The Pentagon dropped its COVID-19 vaccination mandate on Tuesday, a policy that resulted in thousands of service members being forced out of the military over their refusal to get the shot.

The order from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is a result of the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, signed by President Biden, that ordered the Defense Department to end the controversial mandate Mr. Austin signed in August 2021 at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

“No individuals currently serving in the Armed Forces shall be separated solely on the basis of their refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccination if they sought an accommodation on religious, administrative or medical grounds,” Mr. Austin wrote in Tuesday’s memorandum for senior Pentagon leadership.

However, commanders will be allowed to consider a service member’s immunization status in making deployments, assignments and other operational decisions — including when vaccination is required to travel to a foreign country, the Defense Department said.

Under the mandate, troops were forced out of the military for failing to obey a lawful order. Former personnel will be allowed to petition the Defense Department to request a correction to their personnel records, including the characterization of their discharge. 

Military officials will cease any ongoing reviews of personnel who are seeking an exemption to the COVID-19 policy on religious or medical grounds, the memo states.

In his memo, Mr. Austin defended the COVID-19 vaccination policy, saying it “improved the health of our service members and the readiness of the force.”

“The Department’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts will leave a lasting legacy in the many lives we saved, the world-class force we have been able to field, and the high level of readiness we have maintained, amidst difficult public health conditions,” Mr. Austin wrote.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Mike Glenn can be reached at mglenn@washingtontimes.com.

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