Washington: US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a memorandum rescinding the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate pursuant to legislation passed by Congress late last year.
“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,” Austin said on Tuesday.
The military will update the records of such individuals to remove any adverse actions solely associated with denials of such requests, including letters of reprimand, Austin said.
In December, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act for 2023, which included a measure requiring Austin to rescind the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Nevertheless, Austin said the Defense Department will continue to promote and encourage the COVID-19 vaccine for all service members.
Service members administratively discharged on the sole basis of refusing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine are precluded by law from receiving any characterization less than a general discharge, Austin also said.
Former service members may petition the military to correct personnel records, including regarding the characterization of their discharge, Austin added.