Deadline passes and one in 10 Army National Guard soldiers still unvaccinated for Covid. Will they be expelled?

The deadline for all Army National Guard soldiers to be vaccinated for Covid passed at midnight, with about a tenth of the 330,000 soldiers still unvaccinated and subject to financial penalties or potential future expulsion.

Defense officials, however, said that amid the Guard’s recruiting crisis, there are already signs that unit commanders may be allowed to let unvaccinated troops continue receiving pay and benefits for some period.

In November, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin directed that members of the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard who were unvaccinated by the deadline would be unable to participate in drills, get paid or put their service days toward their retirement. Their continued refusal could result in “separation,” or expulsion from the service.

About 14,000 members of the Army Guard have explicitly refused to be vaccinated. Another 7,000 have requested exemptions, many for religious reasons, the officials said.

Prior to publication of this article, the Army did not answer questions about whether it would enforce the threat of separation. On Monday, NBC News reported that every branch of the U.S. military is struggling to meet its 2022 recruiting goals.

As of June 27, 86.4% of Army Guard soldiers were fully vaccinated and 88.59% had received at least one dose of the vaccine. The Army Guard has about 330,000 total members, meaning that more than 37,000 had not been vaccinated as of Monday.

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