At a press conference on Aug. 10, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby confirmed that there would be a procedure for military personnel who do not wish to be vaccinated against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus for religious or medical reasons.
The news comes a day after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced that COVID vaccination would be mandatory for all serving military members beginning in September.
“I will seek the President’s approval to make the vaccines mandatory no later than mid-September, or immediately upon the U.S. Food and Drug Administration licensure, whichever comes first,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said. Currently, the vaccines are administered only with an “emergency use” permit.
At the press conference, reporters asked Mr. Kirby what would happen if military members refuse to take the vaccine for religious or other reasons.
The press secretary clarified that once the vaccine is mandatory, the Pentagon has the authority to administer it to troops. However, he qualified that, adding “there is a religious exemption possibility for any mandatory vaccine and there’s a process that we go through to counsel the individual, both from a medical and from a command perspective, about using a religious exemption.”
“And an individual could also be exempt from a mandatory vaccine based on medical purposes reasons—a pre-existing condition, that kind of thing … the primary care physician will be able to help make that determination,” Mr. Kirby said.
Kirby said, “it won’t be a serious issue,” and he expects that once vaccination is mandatory, “the troops are going to do the right thing,” otherwise, he said, there will be disciplinary sanctions.
Kirby said Secretary Austin expects that the officers in charge of vaccination will act with “professionalism, skill and compassion.”
“We’re going to make sure that every individual who has reservations about taking a vaccine for whatever reason is properly counseled about the safety and the efficacy of the vaccines and the health risks for not taking it, and as well give counsel about the readiness impact of not taking it, the impact that an individual would be having on his or her teammates,” he added.
The official emphasized that each person who applies for an exemption will have a physician who will advise them to “make the right decision.”
“The physician should ensure that the service member is making an informed decision and should address, at a minimum, specific information about the diseases concerned, in this case, COVID (CCP virus) specific vaccine information, including product constituents, benefits, risks and potential risks of infection incurred by the un-immunized individuals,” Kirby said.
In addition to being advised by the Army physician, the applicant will receive recommendations from their higher command on the consequences of not getting the vaccine, which includes the possibility of not being sent overseas for a mission or having a specific assignment.
In any case, the press secretary stressed that the military has a procedure in place for this type of scenario with all other mandatory vaccinations. So it is something that has been in place for some time.
“But we take freedom of religion and worship seriously in the military. It’s one of the things that we sign up to defend. And so it’s something that’s done very carefully,” Kirby said. “And there’s a range of religious accommodations that are made in the services to accommodate the belief systems of those who raise their right hand and serve,” he added.