Member of the U.S. Navy prepare Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines as Vice President Kamala Harris visits a vaccination center in Jacksonville, Florida, on March 22. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI.. | License Photo
Oct. 14 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy announced Thursday it has set up a special command to force out active-duty sailors who don't comply with a Nov. 28 deadline to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Navy reservists have until Dec. 28 to comply or face disciplinary action from the new COVID Consolidated Disposition Authority for failing to obey a lawful order, possibly resulting in a less-than-honorable discharge, naval authorities said.
"To date, over 98 percent of active-duty U.S. Navy service members have met our readiness responsibility by completing or initiating a COVID-19 vaccination series, ensuring the continued readiness of our worldwide deployable Navy," Adm. William Lescher, vice chief of naval operations, said in a release.
There have been 164 deaths within the Navy due to COVID-19, "far exceeding the combined total of all other health or mishap related injuries and deaths over the same time period," added Vice Adm. John B. Nowell Jr., the chief of naval personnel.
Of those, he noted, 144 were not immunized.
Discharge proceedings before the COVID Consolidated Disposition Authority -- set up to "ensure a fair and consistent process for separation determinations" -- will begin as soon as service members meet the definition of "refusing the vaccine," officials said.
The Pentagon announced in August that vaccinations would become mandatory for all 2.1 million U.S. military personnel, and since then each service branch has laid down its own deadlines for compliance and with associated penalties.
Like the Navy, the U.S. Army has set a Nov. 28 deadline for members' compliance. The Marine Corps has a deadline of Nov. 14 for full vaccination, while the Air Force has the most ambitious deadline of Nov. 2.
With the quick deadline looming, more than 60,000 Air Force personnel remained unvaccinated as of last week, the Washington Post reported.